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STORIES FROM 

FRENCH HISTORY 



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RUDYAKD KIPLING 







The Terror 
( M \\.iy McCannell, R.B.A. 



STORIES FROM 

FRENCH HISTORY 



BY 



ELEANOR C. PRICE 

AUTHOR OF 
"*ANGELOT " "THE QUEEN'S MAN" "CARDINAL DE RICHELIEU" ETC. 




LONDON 

GEORGE G. HARRAP 6- CO. LTD. 

2 & 3 PORTSMOUTH STREET KINGSWAY W.C. 

AND AT SYDNEY 



published July 



THE RIVERSIDE PRESS LIMITED. EDINBURGH 
c.Ki AT BRITAIN 









Contents 



CHAPTER PACE 

I. CESAR AND VERCINGETORIX ... 9 

II. A CITY, A SAINT, AND A KING . . .18 

III. ROLAND AND ROLLO . . . .28 

IV. THE COMING OF THE CRUSADERS . . .38 
V. THE MAKING OF THE MONARCHY . . .47 

VI. A MOTHER AND SON . . . .58 

VII. THE PROVOST OF THE MERCHANTS . . 67 

VIII. A VANISHED PALACE . . . .77 

IX. THE STORY OF THE MAID . . .86 

X. A PATRIOT . . . . . .06 

XI. THE DAWN OF MODERN FRANCE,. . .106 

> j * j '. 
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XII. A GREAT CAPTAIN / . . .114 

' 

XIII. A KING OF THE .'RSNAlsaA&cB , . . . 122 

.: 

XIV. VALOIS AND Bo(mm>iN. . . . . 133 
XV. HENRI QUATRE . . . . .143 

XVI. THE IRON HAND . . . . .152 

XVII. THE VELVET PAW. . . . .162 

XVIII. FIGURES IN THE FRONDE .... 172 

XIX. THE RISING OF THE SUN-KING . . .181 

5 



Stories from French History 

ITKR 

XX. VERSAILLES . . . . 191 



XXI. PEASANTS AND SMUGGLERS . . . 

XXII. CHATEAU AND VILLAGE 211 

XXIII. Two GOOD MEN .... ^H) 

XXIV. THE QUEEN AND HER SERVANTS . . . 226 
XXV. KING TERROR . 235 

XXVI. VIVE L'EMPERF.UR! 245 



,- ..... 

-.. . . 
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Illustrations 



FACING 
PAGE 

THE TERROR .... Otway McCanne.ll Frontispiece 

ST GENEVIEVE, CLOVIS, AND CLO- 

TILDE . . . . M. Meredith Williams . 24 

SHIPS OF THE VIKINGS . . M. Meredith Williams . 34 

THE FIRST CRUSADERS IN SIGHT OF 

JERUSALEM . . . M. Meredith Williams . 44 

THE CHATEAU GAILLARD . . J. M. W. Turner . 52 

THE SAINTE-CHAPELLE . . . Photo ... 64 

JEANNE o'Afic .... Henri Chapu . . 88 

THE HOUSE OF JACQUES C(EUR AT 

BOURGES .... Photo ... 98 

THE PLACE DE GREVE IN THE 

FIFTEENTH CENTURY . . F. Hoffbauer . .110 

BAYARD WORKING ON THE FORTI- 
FICATIONS OF MEZIERES . . M.Meredith Williams . 118 

THE CHATEAU DE BLOIS . . Photo . . .126 

VIEW OF PARIS IN THE SIXTEENTH 

CENTURY . . . F. Ho/bauer . .146 

RICHELIEU AND FATHER JOSEPH . M.Meredith Williams . 156 

7 



Stories from French Histor 



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STORIES FROM FRENCH 
HISTORY 

CHAPTER I 
C/ESAR AND VERCINGETORIX 

The f/randeur (hat was fiome. 

EDGAR A. POE 

Le fjranit immorte? d\m maynanime exemple. 

ARSENE VF.RMEXOCZE 

AT the beginning of what is known as French history 
stands the great fact one of the greatest in the 
annals of civilization that Rome invaded and 
conquered Gaul. 

That triumph is bound up with the name of Julius 
Caesar ; but it had really begun long before he crossed the 
Alps, about the year 58 B.C., to enter on the first of the 
eight campaigns that his conquest cost Rome. Something 
like a hundred years earlier the people of the ancient lands 
and settlements of Southern Gaul, where the mountains 
descend in sun-bathed loveliness and glory of colour to the 
Mediterranean Sea the lands whose seaboard we call the 
Riviera, the coast beyond all others had asked for help 
from Rome against enemy tribes. The Romans came, 
and remained ; these regions were too like Italy to be 
lightly returned to their original owners. Aix and Nar- 
bonne, the first Roman colonies, soon became chief cities 
in the territories later called Provence and Languedoc, 
' the Province ' ruled by Roman power which stretched 
across the river Rhone from the Alps to the Pyrenees. 

9 



Stories from French History 

Here was the favourite seat of the Romans for something 
like six hundred years, long after the whole of Gaul had 
been more or less colonized down, indeed, to the fall of 
the Empire and the sweeping barbarian invasions from 
the North and East, which for the time being destroyed 
civilization and by more lasting changes transformed Gaul 
into France. In old Provence, where it was once supreme, 
are the chief visible relics of that Roman power whose 
hidden vital influence will last to the world's end. Here 
in the clear dry air, above the blue tideless sea, far removed 
from the mud and mist of the North, among the palms 
and vines and figs and olives, the red rocks, the dry white 
stony beds or winter torrents of the streams, the Romans 
built their villas of dazzling marble and set their stately 
gardens with statues and fountains. Here were and still 
are the great aqueducts, such as the Pont du Card, 
marvellous works of engineering to bring water from the 
mountains ; the triumphal arches, the pillared temples on 
the hill-sides, the baths, the amphitheatres, the streets of 
tombs such as the Alyscamps (Elysian Fields) of Aries. 
In many cities of France, as well as in Britain and other 
countries colonized by Rome, mighty remains are to be 
found in their age and decay ; but the bones of the Roman 
Empire, a writer on Provence has strikingly said, "pierce 
through Provencal soil in many places as though that 
giant grave were still too narrow for the skeleton of a past 
than can never wholly die." 

The Romans brought law and order, justice and good 
government. Theirs was the idea of the one ruling state, 
yet of the freedom, dignity, and independence of each 
member of that state. That these doctrines did not ex- 
clude tyranny and slavery is a fact leading to questions too 
deep to be discussed here. But one answer may be given : 
the Roman Empire at its greatest knew nothing of Christi- 
10 



Caesar and Vercingetorix 

anity. When the knowledge came, bitter persecution 
followed it ; for the freedom of a Christian was seen to be 
something different from that of a Roman citizen and was 
mysteriously alarming to the rulers of a heathen state. 

Rome did not destroy the countries she conquered, but 
added them to her Empire, giving their people the advan- 
tages enjoyed by her own citizens. She imposed on them, 
willing or not, her language and her laws, and organized 
their trade, education, and local government. Splendid 
roads ran from point to point of the Empire, mountains 
were crossed, forests pierced, rivers bridged ; thus there 
was constant communication by chariot, horse, or running 
post between the cities, and regular intercourse with Rome. 
The Roman settlers intermarried with the natives of their 
colonies. The Latin strain is strong in France to this 
day: in the south, women's classical Roman faces often 
show descent from the conquerors of two thousand years 
ago. 

Caesar found in Gaul a large and beautiful country 
guarded by mountains and seas, its plains varied by hills 
and valleys, among which a thousand lesser rivers and 
streams flowed into the great four that were then, as now, 
the characteristic boundaries of its provinces and popula- 
tions : the Seine, the river of Paris, in later centuries the 
chief waterway of French civilization ; the wide and wind- 
ing Loire, river of the west, flowing to the Atlantic through 
a land of fertility and romance ; the Garonne, rising in 
the Spanish mountains, and in Caesar's days better known 
and more navigated than any except the noble Rhdne, 
that divides the southern provinces in his magnificent 
course from the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea. 

Gaul was a wild country in Caesar's days, largely covered 
with forest, and inhabited by Celtic tribes with a certain 
civilization of their own not unlike that of the ancient 

11 



Stories from French History 

Britons. They were ruled by their Druids ; but a religion 
of terror did not crush the independence of mind, the rest- 
lessness, the curiosity about nature and man, or weaken 
the love of fighting and the obstinate courage which in 
former centuries of wandering had made these Gauls a 
dread to Southern Europe and Asia. Caesar found a more 
stationary people, in a country whose rough divisions were 
marked then, as now, by striking differences in character. 
The men of the south were the most prosperous and the 
most talkative ; those of the west the most imaginative 
and least practical ; those of the north and east the 
strongest, bravest, most industrious. There was no 
general government of the country, such as the Romans 
brought and imposed upon it : the towns, large thatched 
villages, often fortified, on hill or river-bank, among 
cultivated fields or hidden away in a forest clearing, were 
independent communities of quarrelsome folk, constantly 
fighting among themselves or with each other. The 
difficulty of bringing these tribes into obedience to the 
supreme power of Rome may be measured by the eight 
years' campaign of Rome's most brilliant commander. 

Tall and splendid men these Gauls were : fair, blue- 
eyed, red-haired, with long fierce moustaches, of which 
they were amazingly proud. The chiefs were gorgeous 
in gold-embroidered garments, with collars and bracelets 
blazing with jewels. When mounted on great horses, 
brandishing swords or javelins, and wearing on their 
helmets the skull of some bird or animal with stag's horns 
or falcon's wings extended, their height and appearance 
might well strike terror into ordinary foes. The small, 
dark men of Italy, running and driving into battle with 
shining armour and short Roman sword, might seem 
overmatched by these tremendous warriors. Caesar, 
with his bald head and thin, aquiline face, keen, grave, 
12 



Caesar and Vercingetorix 

and thoughtful, appeared a mean opponent for such a 
magnificent young chieftain as Vercingetorix. 

And in fact this famous leader of the Gauls made a fine 
defence against the Roman invaders, for he had military 
genius as well as dauntless courage, and he was a real 
patriot, even though his country meant little more than 
a group of tribes and scattered communities. His own 
tribe, called by Caesar the Arverni, inhabited the moun- 
tains of Auvergne, the beautiful central province of France 
which takes its name from them ; the dwelling of Ver- 
cingetorix was a hill stronghold called Gergovia. The 
story goes that his father, a great chief, was murdered 
here by the partisans of a jealous brother. This brother 
was ruling in his stead when the resistance of Central 
Gaul to the Romans broke into flame. 

It was mid-winter. From the high plateau where 
Gergovia stood all grass and brambles now mountain 
and plain lay wrapped deep in snow. The thatched roofs 
of the little town were heaped with it ; all the warmer 
for old men, women, and children, who crowded together 
round central fires in the large huts, sleeping or drinking 
heavily or singing songs and telling ancient tales of the 
glory of the Gauls long ago when they stormed over the 
known world and, led by their brave chief Brennus, took 
Roman senators by the beard. The name of Rome had a 
different sound for them now, in spite of their boasting, 
and the chief of Gergovia wagged a prudent head of dis- 
approval over the talk of the young men, led by his nephew 
Vercingetorix. What were these foolish, fiery dreams of 
resistance to Rome ? They would end by bringing fire 
and sword on the whole country. They would end in the 
extermination of the Gauls. Why not make terms with 
the invader and live side by side with him in trade, as 
many Gaulish cities were already doing ? These young 

13 



Stories from French History 

hot-heads should be stabbed or burnt alive, or at least 
driven away into the forests to live with the wild beasts, 
their brethren ! 

Even while the old man grumbled, gulping down his 
strong drinks and stretching his feet to the crackling fire, 
the young men with their leader were out in the snow, 
watching the northern sky, listening for a voice that should 
travel along the hill-tops to bring the message they ex- 
pected, signal for a general rising. Through the stillness 
of the winter night under the stars it came, the shout 
handed on from man to man over a hundred and fifty 
lonely miles. In the town of Orleans on the Loire, called 
by the Romans Genabum, where they had made one of 
those trading centres which the old chief approved, the 
Gauls had risen that morning and had killed all the 
Roman colonists. 

With rage and terror the chief received the news, 
brought to him triumphantly by Vercingetorix. What 
vengeance would not the Romans take for such a so-called 
victory ! That they might have no excuse for destroying 
Gergovia, his innocent self, his followers, and his property, 
he ordered that Vercingetorix should be driven instantly 
from the town. Had not the young men of the tribe stood 
behind Vercingetorix his life would have been in peril. 

The little band dashed away into the mountains, and 
for a few days or weeks Gergovia heard no more of them. 
Then they returned with a troop of fierce young spirits 
like themselves, and took the place by storm. There was 
slight resistance, for Vercingetorix was more popular with 
the tribe than his cowardly uncle could ever be. History 
does not tell of the chief's fate, but life was of small account 
in those days, and revenge was a duty. He disappears. 
We know that his nephew was proclaimed cliief, and that 
Gergovia became the formidable centre of a rebellion 
14 



Caesar and Vercingetorix 

against Rome, led by Vercingetorix, which spread quickly 
through the central provinces of Gaul. One after another 
the strong places where the Romans in the course of 
several campaigns had established themselves fell into 
Gaulish hands again. Caesar and his legions had gone 
south before winter set in, leaving garrisons in the new 
colonies. These were easily overwhelmed by the warlike 
Gauls and their leader. From south to north, from the 
Garonne to the Seine, his countrymen followed Vercinge- 
torix. The tribes flocked to his standard in such numbers 
that he divided them into two armies, sending one south- 
ward and marching northward with the other, designing 
thus to free the whole of Gaul. And he might have done 
it, had his opponent been any man but Caesar. 

The Roman general heard the news in Italy. Travelling 
day and night, crossing the Cevennes, the south-eastern 
barrier of Auvergne, through many feet of snow, and driv- 
ing the southern army of the Gauls before him, he burst 
upon the province and began to lay it waste with fire and 
sword. Vercingetorix hurried back to its defence, and saw 
but one course to take with these terrible enemies : the 
land must be made desolate before them, the towns and 
villages burnt, the cattle driven away, the women and 
children carried off into safety. His men would swoop 
on their communications, seize their convoys, starve them 
in the bitter weather, and thus force them to retreat. 
The desperate plan was carried out, but not entirely. 
Vercingetorix had not the relentlessness of Caesar. When 
the Bituriges, the inhabitants of Bourges, prayed on their 
knees that their beautiful town might be spared twenty 
of their settlements having gone up in flames, surely a 
sufficient sacrifice for one day the young chief listened 
to their prayers. But with a doubtful mind ; and they 
soon had cause to regret their attempt at self-preservation. 

15 



Stories from French History 

There were forty thousand people in Bourges when 
Caesar besieged it, building towers and raising mounds of 
earth against the ramparts. Cold and hunger weakened 
his armv. but after twenty-five davs he stormed the town 

ff 9 V W 

in spite of a heroic defence. Then there was a massacre 
so vast that only eight hundred escaped from Bourges 
and fled to Vercingetorix, Caesar with his legions pursuing 
them. For a time fortune favoured the Gauls. Their 
chief made so fierce a stand beneath his own walls of 
Gergovia that the power of Rome was driven in disorderly 
flight to the north, harassed by rising tribes and pursued 
by Vercingetorix. In one of the rearguard actions 
Caesar even lost his sword and narrowly escaped with 
his life. 

But Rome after all was invincible, and the tide was not 
long in turning. The tribes agreed in making Vercinge- 
torix, their one great soldier, paramount chief in Gaul. 
Now we find him at the head of his army, fighting unequal 
battles with the legions and finally holding out for many 
weeks in the citadel of Alesia, on the Mont Auxois in 
Burgundy, waiting till the whole of Gaul, urgently sum- 
moned, should hurry its two hundred thousand warriors to 
his relief. They came at length : sweeping clouds of horse- 
men, hordes of archers and javelin-throwers, attacked the 
Roman army where it lay entrenched round about the hill, 
imprisoning the fortress within miles of earthworks and 
ditches thirty feet wide. To sally out was impossible. 
Vercingetorix and his friends, faced with imminent 
starvation, watched from Alesia the great battle between 
Romans and Gauls, which raged for days in valley and 
plain. The end was doubtful till a body of horsemen in 
Caesar's pay, summoned from the Rhine, fell suddenly on 
the rear of the Gauls. Roman soldiers before, strange 
barbarians behind, the men of Gaul were seized with panic : 
16 



Caesar and Vercingetorix 

they fled, pursued for miles by death-dealing enemies, 
and there was no more hope for the citadel of Alesia. 

To save his army from certain starvation or massacre, 
Vercingetorix offered himself as a captive to Csesar, who 
accepted the sacrifice, knowing well that without their 
hero-leader the resistance of the tribes would soon crumble 
into nothing. Then came the wonderful scene handed 
down by story through twenty centuries, in which Ver- 
cingetorix took leave of the history of his nation. 
Splendidly armed, flashing with steel and gold and jewels, 
crested with falcon's wings, he mounted his war-horse 
and rode alone out of the gate of Alesia. Csesar in his 
camp awaited him. The young warrior rode round the 
open space, once more waving lance and sword. Then 
the thunder of hoofs ceased suddenly : he threw himself 
from his horse, cast down helmet and weapons before 
Caesar, and M^aited in silence for his fate. 

It was hard. They loaded him with chains and led 
him to Rome. Six weary years he spent in prison, and 
was only brought out to walk through the streets behind 
Caesar's triumphal car, long after the whole of Gaul had 
been conquered and pacified and made a Roman province. 
Then, in some black dungeon, dagger or rope ended the 
gallant life of this noblest of the Gauls. 

In granite or bronze he still watches over the scenes of 
his brave doings of old. In the square at Clermont, in 
Auvergne ; on the grass-grown site of Gergovia ; on the 
Auxois hill, where he made his last stand and gave himself 
to save his comrades ; here and elsewhere his grand figure 
reminds modern France of that ancient invasion. And 
surely now, as then, the valiant spirit of Vercingetorix 
leads the armies of his country. 



17 



CHAPTER II 
A CITY, A SAINT, AND A KING 

Comme tile avail yarde lex moutons a Nanterre, 
On la mit a garder un bien autre troupeau. 

(Test elle la savante et V antique bergert. 

CHARLES PEGUY 

THE city was Paris ; the saint was Genevieve the 
shepherdess ; the king was Clovis the Frank. 
The Roman power was gone. Only a small part 
of Gaul south of the Somme remained under the rule 
of a dying Empire. Two hundred years of strength and 
magnificence had been followed by two hundred more 
of internal decay and external pressure of Barbarian in- 
vasions. Pride and patriotism were gone, and the subjects 
of Imperial Rome, in Italy as well as in the colonies, 
crushed with taxes, deprived by selfish despotism of the 
wish or the means to defend themselves, had fallen an 
easy prey to the armed hordes that swarmed across the 
mountains and the Rhine. All the Roman world went 
down before them ; the glory and grandeur, the beauty, 
luxury, and culture. Ruin was everywhere : Goths, 
Vandals, Visigoths, Burgundians, Franks, either as enemies 
or auxiliaries of the Empire, overran Gaul, and through 
the chaos of the time we can see that great country, 
toward the end of the fifth century, broken up north, 
south, east, and west into separate dominions ruled by 
independent kings, having little in common with Rome 
or with the older world she had conquered. 
18 



A City, a Saint, and a King 

They were not all heathen : the Burgundians, for in- 
stance, and the Visigoths, who ruled South-western Gaul, 
had a form of Christianity of their own. Nor were they 
savage : once established in their beautiful new lands, 
the ancient influence of Rome was not lost upon them, 
and they developed a kind of civilization. But this was 
hardly universal ; and these gentler peoples were not 
those with whom the future of France lay. The help of a 
more warlike race was needed to beat back a last invasion 
of Barbarians, the fiercest and most horrible that ever 
came storming from the East, before whom Goths and 
Vandals were flying when they themselves invaded Gaul. 
This warlike race was that of the Franks, and it was the 
people called Huns from whom they saved Gaul. 

These people came from the Far East and were as hideous 
as they were strong and cruel. A Roman chronicler 
called them ' two-legged wild beasts.' Led by Attila, 
' the Scourge of God,' they carried devastation through 
the land, and there came a day when the city of Paris was 
threatened by them. 

Paris was a small city, but even then an attractive and 
important one. The Romans called it Lutetia Parisiorum 
-the white town of the Parisii, a tribe settled there on an 
island in the broad Seine when Caesar took the place and 
made it a military station. It was then a cluster of 
thatched huts, with some kind of fortification, surrounded 
by woods and marshes. As years went on the Romans 
had built a town of brick and white stone, the island being 
still the centre, bridges connecting it with the suburbs on 
the mainland and the defences on the northern and 
southern hills. On the island, where the cathedral of 
Notre-Dame now stands, there were palaces and temples : 
on the south bank was a great palace with baths and an 
amphitheatre. The remains of buildings and walls, their 

19 



Stories from French History 

masonry fifteen hundred years old, may still be traced in 
Paris to-day. 

The later Roman rulers had made the city their resi- 
dence : the Emperor Julian, artist and philosopher, loved 
' darling Lutetia ' and spent much of his time there. The 
city was one of those, like Soissons, which remained longest 
under Roman dominion, and it long preserved the order 
and beauty of ancient Roman rule. 

It became a Christian city. The Church, which had 
first grown and lived in the heart of Rome against Rome's 
will, persecutions and martyrdoms only leading to more 
complete triumph, was in these barbarian days the one 
organization that stood, representing in the general chaos 
the reign of righteousness and law. Among the heroic 
phalanx of her pioneer bishops we need only mention the 
names of Denis of Paris and Martin of Tours. In the fifth 
century, when the Huns invaded Gaul, two of the most 
distinguished leaders were Bishop Remy of Reims and 
Bishop Germain of Auxerre. 

And now we come to the marvellous story of the peasant 
woman who, according to old records, was the chief de- 
fender and ruler of Paris for nearly seventy years. Nan- 
terre, the village where Genevieve was born early in the 
fifth century, and where she watched her father's sheep as 
they fed under the willows, was a small settlement near 
the river where it doubles and winds to the north-west of 
Paris. Hither came, so the story goes, Bishop Germain 
of Auxerre on a missionary journey into Britain, probably 
to travel by boat down the Seine and from its mouth to 
venture across the narrow seas. Preaching at Nanterre, 
he noticed the refined sweetness and devotion of the little 
shepherd girl and gave her a special blessing, prophesying 
that this child would one day do great things for God and 
her countrymen. 
20 



A City, a Saint, and a King 

Meanwhile, spinning by the river and watching the 
sheep, Genevieve grew into a tall, beautiful girl. A 
certain stately dignity united with her gentleness of bear- 
ing to remind the neighbours of her Gallo-Roman descent. 
During these years no hungry wolf, they say, dared to steal 
a lamb from her flock, and no evil person on river or shore 
by word or deed disturbed her peace. But the day came 
when she was to leave her little meek flock to take charge 
of a far larger and very different one : no less than the 
whole people of Paris, folded between their hills. 

No such thought as this can have been in Genevieve's 
mind when, after her father's death, she left Nanterre to 
live with relations in the city. Though even in these early 
days she seems to have been deeply reverenced for wisdom, 
sincere religion, and generous charity, it was not till the 
year 451, when she was about thirty years old, that either 
she or the Parisians knew the extent of her powers. In 
that year the Huns entered Gaul and advanced toward 
Paris. Their coming would have meant massacre and 
utter destruction, for resistance was hardly to be thought 
of: little of the Roman strength now lingered, even in 
cities still ruled by Roman law. The people had no real 
leaders and were distracted with terror, even while the 
Huns were many leagues away. They snatched up their 
treasures and were ready to fly in crowds to the forests to 
escape from the terrible enemy. But Genevieve stopped 
them. Standing on the bridge over the Seine, this young, 
slight woman of no authority opposed herself to the panic- 
stricken mob of fugitives and turned them back to their 
homes. 

" Our Lord God has shown me," she said, " that if the 
men of Paris will pray to Him, sorrowing for their sins, 
and will be ready with boldness to fight for their city, He 
will Himself be their defence and guard." 

21 



Stories from French History 

Legends say that a heavenly vision had shown Genevieve 
the Him forces retreating from her borders. ^Yhether 
this be true or not, news came that Attila had turned 
south-westward and was marching toward Orleans : then, 
that a great army of Franks and Visigoths, with such 
Roman legions as remained in Gaul, had fought a tremen- 
dous battle with the Huns on the plain of Chalons and 
had driven those dreadful hordes back finally across the 
Rhine. 

In those unsettled years of no fixed government, when a 
certain sense of public order, handed down from Rome, 
chiefly represented by the Church, was all that kept 
citizenship alive, it was to some strong character that 
people turned for guidance ; and this explains the long 
trust and dependence of Paris on its beloved saint, ruler, 
and defender, Genevieve. 

There came a time when the city was menaced again by 
Barbarian armies; not, indeed, so inhumanly terrible as 
the Huns had been, but fierce and alarming enough, wor- 
shippers of Odin and the warlike gods of the North. 
Merovee, King of the Franks, had helped in the defeat of 
Attila at Chalons. His people were already settled on 
both banks of the Rhine and had spread through the 
north-eastern provinces to the North Sea, Cologne and 
Tournay being two of their principal towns. From 
Tournay came Childeric, son of Merovee, with an army of 
restless warriors eager for spoil, sweeping like a cloud 
round Paris and laying siege to the ruinous Roman walls 
of a city that had grown rich and quiet in years of peace. 

Now starvation threatened, and the flock looked to 
Genevieve for food. Their shepherdess did not fail them. 
Trusting herself alone, they say, to a small boat on the 
Seine, she slipped past the besieging force and made her 
way up-stream to distant towns and villages, from whence 
22 



A City, a Saint, and a King 

she brought back a whole convoy of boats laden with corn. 
And when the Frank chieftain at last entered the gates, 
when Paris was trembling before the wild invaders who 
thronged her streets and stared around at her faded 
splendours, it was Genevieve who faced Childeric at his 
triumphal feast and obtained from him the sparing of the 
city which he already dreamed of making his capital. No 
scene in the shepherdess's life can have been more marvel- 
lous than this. No wonder that, as old age crept upon her, 
the reverence of her flock deepened almost to adoration. 

Genevieve was between seventy and eighty years old 
when she, representative of Gaul and Rome, at last re- 
signed her guarded city into the hands of the Franks, 
whose power had now spread through the north of the 
country that may be henceforth called France. Clovis, 
son of Childeric, became King of the Tournay Franks as a 
boy of sixteen. No Frank was stronger or fiercer than he, 
but he had great intelligence and generous instincts, and 
his actions must be judged by the moral standards of his 
own time. 

To his twentieth year and his first campaign belongs the 
famous story of the Vase of Soissons. A precious silver 
bowl or vase had been taken, with other treasures, from a 
church, and the spoil was brought to Soissons to be 
divided by lot among the chiefs and warriors. A messenger 
came from Bishop Remy of Reims to ask for the return of 
the vase. The young King still a heathen laid the re- 
quest before his companions. All consented, except one 
man. Crying out to the King : " Thou shalt have nothing 
more than the lot gives thee ! " he lifted his battle-axe and 
smashed the vase in two. The King governed himself, 
says the chronicler, took the broken vase, and gave it to 
the Bishop's messenger. But a year later, when inspect- 
ing the weapons of his soldiers, he found that man's battle- 

23 



Stories from French History 

axe stained with rust. Snatching it from him, he threw it 
on the ground, and as the warrior stooped to pick it up he 
cleft his skull with one blow. "Thus didst llu>u." he 
cried, " to the vase at Soissons ! ' 

Many legends gathered round the name of Clovis. In 
them and in more sober history he shows tliroughout his 
life two characters : the pagan chief, fierce, ambitious, 
cunning, and cruel to his enemies ; the Christian champion 
and defender of the Faith, he who cried: "Had I been 
there with my Franks ! '' when the story of the Crucifixion 
was read to him. 

The story of the ford belongs to the campaign against 
the Visigoths, in which the southern provinces of old Gaul 
were conquered for France and for the Church. On their 
march southward Clovis and his army arrived on the banks 
of the Vienne, not far from Chinon, to find the river 
swollen by flood so that a passage seemed impossible. As 
the King sat under a tree in the forest, much discontented, 
and watched the dark water swirling by, a slender, snow- 
white hind stole out from the thicket and stood a moment 
with lifted head, listening to the sounds of war that had 
invaded her sanctuary. The King beheld her in silence. 
She stepped daintily down the bank, entered the river, and 
crossed it to the farther side. She did not need to swim ; 
her graceful head was high above water and her little feet 
trod the pebbly bed over which the flood rippled so fast. 
When she had reached the other side and disappeared 
again into the forest, Clovis thanked God and called to 
his men. Where the hind had crossed, they could cross : 
she had shown them the ford. She seemed a creature of 
miracle, sent from heaven to lead the King on his way. 

When Clovis was still very young he married a Christian 
princess, Clotilde of Burgundy, and she, beautiful and 
much beloved, converted him to her religion. The actual 

24 




St Genevieve, Clovis, and Clotilde 

M. Meredith Williams 



Stories from French History 

turning-point was a victory over the Allemans, a German 
tribe who were bent on depriving the Franks of their con- 
quests in Gaul. This great battle was fought at Tolbiac, 
now called Ziilpich, near the Rhine. For the first time 
Clovis prayed to Christ for victory, promising to be bap- 
tized. He was victorious, and kept his word. He was 
baptized at Reims by Bishop Remy, with three thousand 
of his warriors. 

The young King and Queen entered Paris, where they 
were received by Genevieve, still the ruler of her half- 
Roman flock. We may imagine her, erect in great age, 
dark-robed, black-hooded, stately and wise and kind, 
advancing along the streets of low, red-tiled houses and 
gardens to meet this final inroad of the Franks, and welcom- 
ing them in Latin, her own language, now well understood 
by them. Historians have tried to show us how it all 
looked ; the white city with its island centre, divided by 
the silver Seine, set in a frame of hills and forests and old 
Roman villas and tombs, the northern hill of Montmartre 
already crowned with a Christian church built by 
Genevieve over the grave of St Denis. 

The tall young warrior, Clovis, was handsome and stern. 
Both he and Clotilde wore their long fair hair in twisted 
braids hanging below the waist. His cap was circled with 
a plain gold crown. A long royal mantle hung from his 
shoulders ; beneath it, over his short garments of linen 
and leather, sword and axe were slung from a heavy 
jewelled belt. He wore also bracelets and rings and neck- 
ornaments set thickly with precious stones. The Queen's 
crown was more elaborate ; her jewels too were splendid ; 
her under-dress of fine gold network, girded with a long 
sash, was covered by an embroidered robe falling to her 
feet. Her face, with the hair parted on her brow, was 
lovely and proud and full of character. If Paris and the 
26 



A City, a Saint, and a King 

kingdom were Clevis's conquests, he was hers ; it was 
through her that he came, a Christian king, to his new 
Christian city. 

King, Queen, and Shepherdess, followed in long proces- 
sion by the royal escort and the people of Paris, crossed 
the city from north to south, winding over the bridges and 
the island to the Roman palace of Julian on the southern 
hill. From there, on some not distant day, Clovis and 
Clotilde went forth to lay with Genevieve the first stone 
of a great church which became the abbey-church of 
Sainte-Genevieve rebuilt about 1770 and later called the 
Pantheon where King and Queen and Shepherdess were 
buried side by side. 

For many centuries, when flood or war or pestilence or 
any great alarm threatened Paris, the shrine of Sainte- 
Genevieve was carried through the streets and people 
begged for her prayers that the old flock she had kept 
so long might once more be saved. But the time came, 
thirteen hundred years after her death, when men of the 
Revolution, far-off, forgetful descendants of that first 
flock, melted down the rich shrine and burned her bones. 



27 



CHAPTER III 
ROLAND AND ROLLO 

ffelas! toute puissance est a peine i'!evte 

Que'lle s'ebranle; oh sont lesfils de Mi'roree ? 

On sont ceux de Clovis? Que derieiulront /es tien-t, 

Charlemagne ? HENRI DE BORNIER 

Dieu ! que le son du cor est trixte aufond des boi* .' 

ALFRED DE VICXY 

IN the line of long-haired Merovingians-- Thierrys, 
Clotaires, Childeberts, Chilperics, Cariberts, Dago- 
berts, Sigeberts, Clodomers, Gontrans who followed 
Clovis through two hundred and forty years and preceded 
the race of Charles the Emperor, exceptions were too few 
to make the general title of rois faineants an unjust re- 
proach. There were good men among them : Clodoald, 
a grandson of Clovis, retired from the miseries of a cruel 
and sinful world, and is not forgotten in France under his 
name of St Cloud ; Dagobert I left behind him a tradition 
of justice, strong government, and generosity to the Church 
and the poor. But the partition of the kingdom, which 
began with the sons of Clovis, led to constant quarrels and 
anarchy. Terrible women, such as Brunehaut, wife of 
Sigebert, and her rival Fredegondc, deluged France with 
blood in a private war of their own. Kings and princes 
dwindled to the mere succession of vicious sluggards 
against whom the nobles of France at length rose in judg- 
ment. Those rulers of kings, for a hundred years actual 
viceroys under the name of Mayors of the Palace, cut off 
the long royal locks of the last Merovingian and shut him 
28 



Roland and Rollo 

up in a monastery. Pepin the Short, grandson of the 
greatest of the Mayors and son of Charles Martel, the first 
hammerer of the Saracens, was crowned king by Bishop 
Boniface at Soissons in 752. Thus began the Carolingian 
dynasty, taking its name from Pepin's splendid son, but 
destined after another two and a half centuries to go down 
before another race of great nobles, these to rule France, 
for good or ill, four times as long. 

"A marvellous man is Charles ! " says the old poet of the 
Song of Roland. Modern writers hardly attain the glorious 
simplicity which has suggested a comparison between the 
medieval monk Touroude and Homer himself. They chro- 
nicle, as best they may, Charles's "Imperial grandeur, his 
stately Court, his energetic rule, his supremacy over Europe," 
his victories over the Mohammedan armies that came 
swarming from the East and the South to invade Christen- 
dom. But they can show too how Charlemagne and his 
paladins, the immortal Roland at their head, foreshadowed 
a thousand years ago the Christian chivalry of the Middle 
Ages which ennobles Europe still ; how their deeds, truer in 
history, share with those of Arthur and his knights the dawn 
of modern romance and poetry ; how from their battles 
with the Saracens arose not merely the Crusades, but all 
fighting for right and truth and justice in the modern world. 

This greatest of the Franks, in his reign of more than 
forty years, conquered Europe from Italy to the Elbe, 
from Spain to the Danube, so that France, anciently Gaul, 
lay in the very centre of a new empire of the West. He 
was crowned Emperor by the Pope in St Peter's at Rome 
on Christmas Day in the year 800 : and from that day 
forth to quote a recent charming writer " he made an 
immense and glorious effort to pull the car of empire out 
of its Barbarian rut and set it rolling down the roads of 
Rome." In the course of this effort religion and learning 

29 



Stories from French History 

were everywhere encouraged, though the prince who 
founded schools and listened with bent head and tugged 
beard to long arguments on Christian philosophy so 
anxious was he to keep pace with his army of well-paid 
teachers could never read or write without difficulty. 

Eginhard, the chronicler of Charles's reign, who lived at 
his Court and knew him well, describes him as tall, strong, 
and fair, with flaxen hair and large bright eyes ; his whole 
appearance manly and dignified. He had a generous 
charm that attracted both men and women ; he was 
reverenced by the Church, feared by evildoers ; in court 
and camp a noble example. Not without human weak- 
nesses ; but one of those royal characters, so rare in 
history, who govern mankind of their own natural right. 

It was not alone as a mighty warrior, a wise ruler, an 
inspirer of art and learning, that the men of his own day 
glorified Charles for all time as ' Charlemagne.' He was 
also their unquestioned leader in all the great sports of their 
race. The Franks were the boldest riders and most 
famous hunters in the world. Hubert, the patron saint 
of French hunting, was of royal Merovingian blood, and 
his amazing adventure was modern history in the days of 
Charlemagne how he was converted from a careless life 
by meeting in the Ardennes a stag of marvellous size and 
beauty, bearing a crucifix between his horns ; how he fell 
on his knees and vowed obedience to the Faith, becoming 
later Bishop of Liege and dying, very old, a dozen years 
before Charlemagne was born. 

The Emperor was a strenuous follower of St Hubert. 
He was a daring horseman, and the chase was his chief 
pastime, carried on splendidly with packs of swift fierce 
hounds that feared no quarry ; wolf, wild boar, or even 
bear, plentiful then in the southern mountains. The deer 
and the fox were easier game. The vast tracts of forest- 
30 



Roland and Rollo 

land were still wild and pathless as in Caesar's days ; more 
so than in the later Roman time ; for the Merovingian 
rule had neglected or destroyed roads and bridges, so that 
the country was what it long remained, uncultivated and 
difficult of communications. 

The merry greenwood of old England was in old France 
the dark, wolf-haunted, immemorial forest, where much of 
the mystery of the known and unknown world had its 
home : gay in spring, to be sure, with birds and blossoms, 
and beautiful at all times, but with a wilder, more remote 
and solemn beauty : a forest where men saw visions as 
they rode down enchanted ways ; where strange presences 
lurked among the leaves, for the fairy Morgane and her 
like might still deceive unwary knights in the time of 
Charlemagne, as in the tune of Arthur. 

There were no parks, no warrens, no specially preserved 
enclosures : the Imperial hunt swept over a country where 
every man might chase what game he pleased, for feudal 
lords with their privileges did not yet exist, and there was 
more freedom under Charlemagne than under Philippe- 
Auguste. Women rode out with falcons perched on their 
pearl-embroidered gauntlets, and found hawking fine 
sport if they were too lazy to gallop after the stag. But 
those of the Emperor's Court were seldom left behind, and 
even the clergy, the one restricted class, found means to 
rouse the forest echoes with the foremost. Archbishops 
and bishops and abbots obeyed the blast of Count Roland's 
horn as he hunted the glades, and followed him with equal 
joy against wolf or Saracen. 

Roland is said to have been Charlemagne's nephew, con- 
queror and Count of the Marches of Brittany. His magic 
horn, the olifant, made of a great carved tusk of ivory set 
in gold, rings through early French history as it did 
through the thick forests of the Pyrenees from the valley 

31 



Stories from French History 

of Ronccsvalles. To the cars of Charles the King not 
yet Emperor that blast brought the most terrible news 
that ever darkened his reign. He was returning with his 
army from an expedition against the Saracen invaders of 
Spain : sad enough, for the victory had not been complete, 
ending in fair promises from the enemy and an attempted 
treaty which vexed the King's soul. In long, winding 
columns his forces wended their way back through the 
rocky gorges of the mountains ; by rushing streams and 
pathless woods of pine and beech and chestnut. He was 
himself with the vanguard ; hi the rear, leagues away, 
were the larger number of his famous preitx, the valiant 
men whose names live with his own. There were Roland 
and Olivier, Yvon and Yvoire, Gerin and Gerier, Engelier, 
Berenger, Othon, Samson, Ansei's, the old Duke Gerard of 
Roussillon, Archbishop Turpin of Reims, and many more. 
Under the high peak of Altabiscar, where a torrent runs 
down through the narrow wooded valley of Roncesvalles, 
a terrible noise in the thick forest announced the coming 
of an enemy. If we follow the Song of Roland we shall 
believe that this sudden attack was made by Marsilis the 
Saracen king to whom the traitor Ganelon, Charles's 
ambassador, betrayed the route of the army. History 
will have it that the wild Basques, whom Charles had 
conquered, seized this occasion for revenge and spoil. A 
Basque poem, the Song of Altabiscar, describes how the 
mountaineers, hidden far above among the clouds and the 
rocks, listened to the tramp of the advancing army and at 
last, as the shadows of evening fell, saw the gorge below 
them full of lances and banners and gleaming armour. Then 
they rushed down in their thousands to attack with swords 
and arrows, some rolling great stones from the heights ; 
and so sudden Avas the surprise, so furious the onset, that 
of all Roland's gallant companions not one was left alive. 

32 



Roland and Rollo 

Roland, with his shining sword Durandal, fought to the 
end : his swift horse Veillantif was killed under him : he 
was wounded nearly to death : but with his last strength 
lifting to his mouth the famous horn, the olifant, he blew 
so great a blast that the rocks carried the sound and echo 
repeated it thirty leagues away. Charles and his army 
heard it and the King said : " Our men are fighting. It is 
the horn of Roland." 

He rode hard and returned to the fatal valley. The 
enemy had retired and there was an awful silence in the 
mountains, broken only by lamentation over the heroes 
lying slain among the marble rocks, under the trees, along 
the course of the stream. 

Roland lay dead on the green grass, under a pine-tree, 
his face to earth, still grasping horn and sword. A cleft 
rock showed how he had vainly tried to break the fine 
steel of Durandal. He had confessed his sins, and with 
clasped hands commended his soul to God. So died 
Roland, with a last thought for ' sweet France,' his friends, 
and his lord Charlemagne. 

The King is heard crying all those names aloud. 
" Where are you and you and you ? My twelve peers 
who were following me ? " But alas ! none answered. 
The King tore his beard and wept in fury and grief. All 
his knights wept with him. 

Charlemagne long survived that tragedy ; but in the 
poems and chronicles of his later life, with the account of 
his glorious activities there sounds an undertone of weari- 
ness and disappointment. The last lines of the Song of 
Roland describe how the summons to a new war came to 
the Emperor one dark night, as he lay in his vaulted room. 
The summoner was the angel Gabriel : " Charles, Charles, 
assemble thy armies ! ' 

A city of a fabled dream-name was besieged by Paynims. 
c 33 



Stories from French History 

" Christians, loud crying, appeal to thee." 

With convincing, inimitable simplicity the old poet 
ends : " The Emperor did not want to go : ' God ! ' he 
cries, ' how painful is my life ! ' His tears run down, he 
rends his white beard." 

One of those chansons de gesies of which our forefathers 
were never tired, for they were the popular histories of the 
time, shows Charlemagne in his last days, desiring to see 
his eldest son Louis, Duke of Aquitaine, crowned in his 
lifetime as his successor. But the great nobles who now 
surrounded the Emperor were very different men, as to 
loyalty and truth, from Roland and his marvellous 
brethren. They suggest the coming of feudalism, the 
system under which each great vassal would fight selfishly 
for his own hand, rather than as the friend and follower of 
his king. 

There was a great gathering at Aix-la-Chapelle. Four 
crowned kings, twenty-six abbots, a large company of 
bishops and nobles, attended Charlemagne in the cathedral. 
The Imperial crown, a gorgeous mass of jewels, was laid 
upon the altar, and an archbishop spoke to the assembled 
Christians, telling them of the Emperor's intention for his 
son. All the congregation lifted their hands, crying their 
joy to heaven. Then Charlemagne spoke from his throne 
to the young Louis. 

" Thou seest that crown," he said. " On certain con- 
ditions, I give it to thee. Thou wilt avoid luxury and sin. 
Thou wilt betray no man. Thou wilt not rob the orphan 
or the widow. My son Louis, behold the crown. Take it, 
and conquer the heathen world. But if thou wilt not 
keep these conditions, take it not, for I forbid it thee." 

Three times, ever more solemnly, the Emperor repeated 
his words. But the young prince neither moved nor spoke, 
nor stretched his hand to take the crown ; and many 

34 




Ships of the Vikings 
M. Meredith Williams 



Stories from French History 

/ 

brave knights wept, seeing the boy's timidity ; for he was 
but fifteen years old. But the Emperor was very angry. 

' This is no son of mine. This is some coward's son," he 
cried. " It would be a crime to crown such as he. Cut off 
his hair. Let him go and ring bells in the monastery yonder. 
Make him a clerk there, that he may not beg his bread." 

The story goes on to tell how a magnificent personage, 
Count Arnei's of Orleans, interceded for the boy with his 
father, pointing out his extreme youth and offering to 
take charge of him for three years. When Louis should 
be old enough for knighthood, and had proved himself a 
worthy heir to the Empire, his guardian would restore him 
in all honour and prosperity. 

Charlemagne agreed to the specious plan, which was 
loudly approved by the Count's many friends and 
followers. But he and they were traitors at heart, for 
he had great power with the people of France, and desired 
to be himself their king. 

Then a new champion enters on the scene. William, 
Count of Orange, a vassal of young Louis in the South, 
was away hunting. His nephew met him with news of 
the treacherous bargain just made, and guided him to the 
monastery where Arnei's had already imprisoned the boy, 
and where, royally dressed, he was holding a kind of court 
of those nobles who desired to see him King of France. 

William, his sword half drawn, pushes his way through 
the throng. His desire is to kill the traitor : but he re- 
members that it is a heavy sin to kill a man, and pushes 
back his sword. Then, face to face with Arneis, he for- 
gets his scruples, and with blows from his two fists lays the 
deceiver lifeless at his feet. " I meant to correct thee, liar 
and glutton, but thou art dead, and not worth a farthing." 

Again the great assembly in the cathedral ; but this 
time William of Orange takes the crown from the altar 
36 



Roland and Rollo 

and places it on the head of the boy. " There, my'good 
lord ! May the King of Heaven give thee grace to judge 
justly ! " And the father rejoiced and said : " Lord 
William, I thank you greatly : your house has restored 
mine." And thus Louis le Debonnaire became the 
successor of Charlemagne. 

" One of the most picturesque and romantic figures in 
the history of mankind " : such was the King-Emperor. 
Also in a sense one of the most tragical : for his lofty 
dream of a united Christian world died with himself. 
Again the Barbarian forces of anarchy and disorder came 
sweeping over a bewildered Europe, and the Empire fell 
to pieces, divided among his descendants and the powerful 
vassals who shared their rule. Already, before Charle- 
magne's death, the heathen vikings from the North were 
beginning to harass his dominions, their pirate ships 
attacking every coast ; and it was under the threatening 
shadow of these new invasions that he died. 

Just a century after his death his great-great-grandson, 
Charles the Simple, King of France, was forced to make 
peace with Rollo the Northman, who had devastated the 
country and nearly taken Paris by storm. Becoming 
a Christian, Rollo married the King's daughter Gisela 
and received the great fief known later as the Duchy of 
Normandy. Too proud to do homage as Charles's vassal 
in the usual way, by kissing the royal foot, Rollo is said to 
have employed one of his followers as deputy. This fierce 
man, far from kneeling humbly down as courtly usage pre- 
scribed, seized the King's foot and lifted it so rudely to his 
lips that King and throne toppled backward amid shouts 
of viking laughter, which neither Charles nor his Frankish 
courtiers dared to resent. 

We may well ask, with Master Frai^ois Villon : 
Mais ou est le preux Charlemaigne ? 

37 



CHAPTER IV 
THE COMING OF THE CRUSADERS 

11 faudra, pour tircr la chredentd occidentale de sa lanyuctir, fa 
vecousse hcrdique de la Croisade. KMILE GEBHART 

Dear Pilgrim, art ihou for ike East indeed? 

R. BKOWNI.NC 

THE Fat, the Bald, the Stammerer, the Simple, 
the Foreigner, the Do-nothing, etc., descendants of 
Charlemagne and nominal kings of France, with 
small territory and little power, were ruled and frequently 
deposed by their great vassals the Dukes of Burgundy, 
Normandy, and Aquitaine, the Counts of Paris, Flanders, 
Champagne, Toulouse, and the many formidable nobles 
who held fiefs depending on these. The most actively 
powerful of all were the Counts of Paris, also called Dukes 
of France. Their ancestor, Robert the Strong, was a half- 
legendary hero of fights against the Northmen early in the 
ninth century : we may remember, by the way, that King 
Louis-Philippe's gallant grandson, the Due de Chartrcs, 
fought for France in 1870 under the name of ' Robert le 
Fort.' Eudes, the son of Robert, defended Paris against 
the Northmen in an eighteen-months siege. The crown 
of France fell to his descendant Hugh Capet, by 
agreement among the great nobles, on the death in 
A.D. 987 of Louis le Faineant, the last Carolingian king. 
" Not bv hercditarv right, but bv noble blood and by 

/ / ^j */ 

ability," said the Archbishop of Reims, himself one of 
the chief men of the kingdom. The race of Charlemagne 
was not extinct, but degenerate and unworthy. Under 
38 



The Coming of the Crusaders 

the race of Capet France became herself, and marched 
on through near a thousand years of her immortal 
history. 

It was a terribly distressful land over which the first 
Capet kings were called to reign. Civilization and learn- 
ing had declined since Charlemagne ; the law and order 
of old Roman days were buried deep and forgotten. The 
early tyrannies of the feudal system had succeeded that 
still worse state of things which followed the breaking 
up of the Empire, when bands of armed robbers patrolled 
the country, seizing what lands and goods they pleased, 
forcing the poor inhabitants, the defenceless peasants, the 
humble proprietors and farmers, by sheer violence into 
slavery. In those days no roads were safe : no crop 
could be peacefully gathered in : even the Church, the 
protectress of the poor, could not always provide refuge 
and sanctuary. 

When Hugh Capet became king, the feudal system was 
at its height of power, a new rule of the strongest, little 
better for the weak than the old savage anarchy. The 
lord lived high and safe in his new castle with his house- 
hold of armed men. His tenants and serfs were crowded 
in their dark hovels, in the steep streets of the little town, 
or, more lonely and unprotected, in scattered huts of the 
village that rambled off into borders of forest or moor. 
Duke or count or baron, they were his men ; they worked 
and fought for him, and he was supposed to guard them 
from the inroads of fierce neighbours. He was usually at 
war with those neighbours whose castles overhung river 
or valley a few leagues away. No moonlight night was 
safe from raids, the thundering feet of horses, the clatter 
of arms, the blaze of thatch, often the violent death of 
poor innocents, whose only crime was their enforced 
loyalty. But they were avenged : the next night might 

39 



Stories from French History 

see the neighbour's village in flames and his wretched 
vassals flying for safety to his walls and gates. In either 
case, if the lord and lady were humane, life was bearable ; 
if they were hard and cruel, there was always a better 
world beyond. In those days the earth was a flat sur- 
face, we remember : above the blue sky was paradise with 
"harps and lutes" for poor Christian souls; far under- 
ground the boiling cauldrons of hell awaited the wicked. 

Toward that thousandth year of Christendom, several 
causes combined to bring misery on France. Ignorance 
and materialism had their universal consequences : 
selfishness, cruelty, and greed. It was prophesied and 
believed that the world would come to an end in the year 
1000, and this belief, while adding desperation to wicked- 
ness, brought a new terror into lives already afflicted be- 
yond bearing by the will of God or man. An awful gloom 
brooded over provinces desolated by war, famine, and 
pestilence. About ten years before the fated A.D. 1000 
began a series of appalling famines, caused by perpetual 
rains and floods, cold summers, bad harvests or none at 
all, which lasted with intervals of a year or two till nearly 
A.D. 1040. People ate grass and the bark of trees. Star- 
vation brought on epidemics in which the mortality 
was frightful, and it was often impossible to bury 
the dead. The forsaken bodies were devoured by 
hungry wolves. Worse still, the ruffians who ranged 
the roads were not satisfied with robbing and murdering 
helpless travellers, but became cannibals and roasted 
them for food. Many horrid stories of this kind are 
told in the chronicles. 

The wonderful changes in that eleventh century, the re- 
awakening of an older ideal which meant new birth for 
Christendom, may be sketched or half imagined from the 
traditions of one of the great French houses. 

40 



The Coming of the Crusaders 

Let us suppose the young son of such a house returning 
with his servants and hounds from an autumn hunting in 
the forests and marshes of Poitou. It is a year of famine, 
and he has seen painful sights enough : skeletons lying by 
the roadside ; men and women and children hardly more 
than skeletons creeping from their dens with outstretched 
hands into which the old huntsman, at his master's com- 
mand, throws pieces of gold. Of what use, when there is 
nothing to buy ! But in the course of that ride the 
hounds have disappeared one by one, and the dead deer 
that the hunters had flung across their horses have been 
snatched away by sudden raids from the thicket. The 
men's bronzed faces are pale and anxious ; they close 
round their young master, for these are dangerous days, 
and the expedition was a rash one. Young Amaury had 
set out against his mother's judgment ; but she, though 
a learned and powerful woman, could not resist his 
prayers. 

His father was absent at a council of nobles and bishops, 
important affairs being on hand ; for the end of all things 
had not come to pass in the year 1000, and now there was 
a great uprising of spiritual enthusiasm. If this old world 
was indeed to live, cried the Church, it must be a life of 
new religious fervour. And the world sprang to meet the 
challenge. Old historians say that it flung off its ancient 
rags to clothe itself with a "white robe of churches." 
Cathedrals and churches which had fallen into ruin were 
rebuilt ; many new ones arose in splendour ; new abbeys 
and convents showed the active reawakening of a faith 
that had slept but not died. People set out on pilgrim- 
ages, no danger or difficulty hindering them : they went 
in crowds to the tombs of the saints, even as far away as 
Rome. Some began to dream of visiting Jerusalem, 
leaving their bones there, possibly. What did that matter 

41 



Stones from French History 

if their eternal salvation might thus be made sure V The 
Church helped the weak and poor by imposing a ' Truce 
of God ' on the quarrelsome and strong : men were for- 
bidden to take up arms from Wednesday to Monday in 
each week, through the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter, 
in the month of May, and on all great festivals : a counsel 
of perfection not always observed, but its general accept- 
ance showed the change in the minds of men. All this 
was the light of dawn : the sun of a new age of religion, 
chivalry, poetry, and art had not yet risen upon France 
when the young Count Amaury rode back from his hunting 
on that autumn afternoon. 

He drew rein on a high moorland from which his father's 
castle could be seen, the watch-tower gleaming tall and 
slender against a background of shadowy, threatening 
clouds. Stretches of forest and a river lay between. 
Amaury and his men stared at the castle. Suddenly 
pale, he turned to the old huntsman who rode nearest 
him. 

" What is that ?" 

" I do not know. God knows ! Let us ride on." 

But his thin hair bristled on his head. Was it a cloud, 
hovering on the watch-tower, or was it rather a woman's 
shape, white arms waving, long grey draperies floating 
and fluttering in the October wind ? And did not 
that same wind, blowing in from the western sea, bring 
the cry of a voice wilder and more sorrowful than its 

ti 

own ? 

The men whispered among themselves. It was already 
a legend, though few generations old, that the fairy lady 
from some northern land who had founded the family and 
the castle might still be seen and heard lamenting on its 
towers the death of a descendant. 

Now they rode down under the copper-coloured woods 
42 



The Coming of the Crusaders 

and crossed the flooded river ; perhaps by the same ford 
wonderfully shown to Clovis five hundred years before. 
They climbed the stony way to the gate of the village that 
crouched beneath the castle ; and now Amaury saw the 
wraith of his ancestress no more ; she had melted into the 
dusky evening. 

Within the walls there was a sound of wailing : but 
at long tables a hundred famished folk were being fed. 
Amaury's mother in black robes, a very real woman, 
awaited him in the torch-lit hall. 

" My son, your father is dead slain treacherously at 
Poitiers on the Lord's Day, by a vile enemy who thus 
broke the Truce of God. You are lord of this castle. 
But you are my son, of tender age, and you will obey me." 

Amaury kissed his mother's hand. He had not loved 
his father, a hard man of the old fierce world to whom 
modern changes were contemptible. But the Countess 
was of a different spirit. 

Now she could follow her own way and that of her 
brother, a saintly bishop from the north of France, who 
visited and advised her. From this day religion and 
chivalry the two were one laid their influence on the 
young Count Amaury. He grew up in the light of ideals 
which sprang from early Christianity, existed among 
the best of the Franks, were glorified by Charlemagne, 
and were almost extinguished in the breaking-up of his 
empire. 

Chivalry at its best was active Christianity. A young 
knight's vows made him the soldier of God, the defender 
of the honour of Christ, the champion of the faith and 
of weak humanity. Unselfish, fearless, pure and true, 
courteous to women and to his equals, gentle and charit- 
able to his inferiors : in short, all that goes to make a 
gentleman. Such became Count Amaury. 

43 



Stories from French History 

In those days the old ideal had its practical conse- 
quences. The people of Christendom awoke and looked 
round. They saw a world invaded ever more widely by 
the Saracens, the disciples of Mohammed, their Master's 
fiercest enemy. They saw " those holy fields " trampled 
by pagans, Jerusalem and Bethlehem and Nazareth with 
their sacred memories subject to slavery and outrage. As 
the ideas of chivalry grew in Europe, and more especially 
in France, men's grief and anger deepened. It was bitter 
shame to Christendom and to every individual Christian 
that such things should be. A flame of faith, of literal 
belief and passionate loyalty, burned through the eleventh 
century till it caught half Europe and blazed high in the 
First Crusade. 

Count Amaury's saintly mother did not live to see that 
climax of her faith and hope ; but while he was still young 
and unmarried she undertook with him the dangerous 
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, returning safely to found a church 
for the good of their people and the repose of her husband's 
soul. 

Amauty was an old man in the year 1095, when he rode 
white-haired with his sons and grandsons to the Council at 
Clermont in Auvergne and was among the foremost of 
those nobles who listened to the sermon of Pope Urban II, 
summoning France to arms against the profaners of the 
Holy Sepulchre. There too he heard passionate words 
from the monk Peter, mean, wild-eyed, dressed in 
sackcloth, thin and weary from those long journeys on 
ass-back through the length and breadth of France in 
which he called Christians of all ranks to fight for their 
Lord. 

Arnaury needed no persuasion. He was not too old to 
take the Cross ; he had long worn it in spirit. His voice, 
if weak with age, was the first to cry ' God wills it! " in 
44 




The First Crusaders in sight of Jerusalem 
M. Meredith Williams 



Stories from French History 

that assembly. His sons and grandsons would well repre- 
sent him in Palestine, should his years forbid him the 
actual Crusade. So he would remain in his castle, old 
and lonely and poor, having sold broad lands to send 
forth his family and vassals on the great adventure 
which carried all France on a wave of enthusiasm 
eastward. Men, women, and children, noble and peasant, 
strong and helpless, wise and foolish, they flung them- 
selves into that holy war from which many were never 
to return. 

The ignorant multitude would not wait for any arm- 
ing or preparation. They set out in frantic haste, led by 
Peter the Hermit arid AY alter the Penniless, a knight 
from Normandy. This was a piteous affair ; for many 
thousands of these poor creatures, the first to carry the 
Cross into Eastern lands, knew little or nothing of what 
they undertook, and in the hope of escaping from misery 
at home, expecting miracles which did not happen for 
them, only marched to disaster. Of the children who 
cried " Is this Jerusalem ? ' at the first view of every 
town on their weary journey, scarcely one lived to see 
France again. The bones of that forlorn vanguard which 
never reached Palestine whitened the way before the 
organized armies that followed it. 

In that great host of mixed elements, led by the highest 
type of religion and chivalry in the valiant Godfrey de 
Bouillon, the fine flower of the nobility of France fought 
their way to Palestine. And among the first of those who 
raised the banner of the Cross on the walls of the Holy 
City were the sons and grandsons of Count Amaury. 
Their fame, earned in this First Crusade, caused his later 
descendants to figure on the long romantic roll of kings 
of Jerusalem. 



4G 



CHAPTER V 

THE MAKING OF THE MONARCHY 

Ce n'est pas en vain qiie la monarchic franqaise a re$u en depot, 
pendant de longs siecles, la grandeur, la gloire, la puissance et la 
maj ente nationales. . . . CPest une joie noble et salutaire de saltier 
avec respect ces institutions mortes qui out si longtemps garde It 
patrimoine commun de la grandeur franqaise. 

FERNAND LABORI 

THE old chronicles tell a quaint story of Philippe- 
Auguste, seventh of the Capet line. One of the 
royal bailiffs or officers of justice coveted some 
lands, the owner of which had lately died. Having bribed 
two labourers to help him, he dug up the dead man under 
cover of night, summoned him to sell his estates, and 
named a price for them. Silence giving consent, he laid 
money in the hands of the corpse and buried it once 
more. He then attempted to take possession of the domain. 
But the dead knight's widow appealed to the King. The 
bailiff, summoned to appear, brought his two witnesses 
to swear that the land had actually been sold to him. As 
usual with the early kings, Philippe-Auguste was sitting 
to dispense justice "simply, without intermediary" as 
M. Funck-Brentano shows him in his book on the kingly 
office in France in his city of Paris, in the great hall of 
the palace on the Island, from whose windows he could 
watch the flowing Seine. A number of people, as usual, 
were present. 

In this case, for some reason, the King suspected fraud. 
He rose from his chair of state and beckoned one of the 
witnesses apart from the crowd, so that words spoken low 

47 



Stories from French History 

were not audible. He then ordered him to recite the 
Paternoster. While the fellow muttered the well-known 
prayer, the King repeated in a loud voice, more than once, 
"That is well; you say it rightly." Then he dismissed 
him and called the other witness aside. " Come, you too 
will repeat it rightly ! ' The second labourer, terrified, 
and believing that his comrade had told the whole truth, 
hastened to tell it himself. The bailiff met with the 
punishment he deserved, and the chronicler, according 
to M. Funck-Brentano, echoed public opinion when he 
wrote that the King's judgment was a match for that of 
Solomon. 

This clever king was not a hero of romance. He had 
little of the crusading spirit of his time : his desires and 
ambitions were nearer home. But he will be remembered 
among the greatest of French kings, for he made the 
monarchy. He was a boy of fifteen when he succeeded 
his father, Louis VII, and had already been crowned in 
the cathedral at Reims according to the royal custom of 
assuring the succession. He was still very young when 
tradition tells us of the tall, fair boy leaving his courtiers 
to brood by himself, gnawing a twig, staring with absent 
eyes and scarcely hearing what was said to him, but at 
length confessing the absorbing thought would grace 
be given him and his heirs to make France again great, 
following in the steps of Charlemagne ? 

Once the rulers of an empire, her kings were now little 
more than lords of a small state surrounded by the im- 
mense fiefs of their nominal vassals. The king stood, 
indeed, on a different footing from these vassals, even the 
strongest of them. He was supposed to be the indepen- 
dent spiritual power, the central authority, the supreme 
administrator of justice, the official protector of religion 
and the poor, 'the father of his people.' Louis VI, the 
48 



The Making of the Monarchy 

Fat, Philippe's grandfather, had to some extent lived up 
to this ideal of royalty by fighting the oppressions of the 
nobles, claiming the right to judge their quarrels, and 
granting charters to the towns which were now begin- 
ning to rebel against feudal masters, whether dukes or 
bishops, and to demand a civic life of their own. And 
Louis VI had done even more. He had begun to solidify 
the monarchy by actual force of arms. In his struggles with 
the great Crown vassals, whose feudal rights were virtually 
the law in France, the King was often victorious. His 
son, Louis VII, a much milder personage, a devout but 
unsuccessful crusader, the unlucky husband of Eleanor 
of Aquitaine, carried on this policy. With the advice of 
Abbot Suger, his wise minister, he became the champion 
of many towns and abbeys against fierce lords whose 
grasping greed mocked at justice or chivalry. 

When young Philippe was crowned at Reims, the actual 
royal domain was a narrow slice of territory extending 
north and south of Paris, from Senlis nearly to Bourges 
and from Dreux to Meaux. This tiny centre of France 
where the King ruled in person was bounded on all sides 
by duchies and counties practically independent. In the 
north, the county of Flanders ; in the west and south-west, 
Normandy and Anjou, hereditary possessions of the 
Norman- Angevin kings of England, to whom the Duke 
of Brittany paid homage ; in the east and south-east, the 
county of Champagne and the duchy of Burgundy. 
South of the Loire were the duchies of Aquitaine or 
Guienne, including Poitou, and of Gascony ; these, again, 
an appanage of the English Crown through the remarriage 
of their Duchess, Eleanor, with Henry II. The Count of 
Toulouse held Languedoc and part of Provence : most of 
the old Roman province, still foremost in civilization and 
in natural beauty, hardly belonged to France at all, but 

D 49 



Stories from French History 

ruled then and for three more centuries by a semi- 
royal house of its own. closely connected Avith the Spanish 
kingdom of Aragon. It is necessary to look at a map of 
the old provinces of France if one is to realize what 
Philippe-Auguste fought for and Avhat he won during the 
forty-three years of his reign. 

It Avill at once be seen that the vast English possessions 
Avere the most formidable barrier in Philippe's path to 
supreme monarchy ; the path along which his advance 
Avas S]OAV, life-long, and gradually victorious. Many 
startling episodes in his life and reign, each a chapter in 
history, Avere to him of slight importance compared Avith 
that dream of following in the Imperial footsteps of 
Charlemagne. 

There Avere Crusades. Philippe-Auguste joined in one 
of them, but Avithout enthusiasm, for his shreAvd mind had 
little faith in these holy Avars and " he kneAv Avell," says 
an historian, "that his right place Avas at home." There 
Avere persecutions in France : first of the JCAYS, at a later 
time of the Albigeois, the Christian heretics of the southern 
proA'inces, Avhere fanciful minds Avere ahvays ready for 
daring and adA 7 anced thought. Philippe took no personal 
part in that terrible and bloody Avar, Avhich arose from 
feudal as Avell as religious causes, and almost destroyed 
the separate independence and ciA'ilization of the South. 
But its results Avere to his advantage, and he did not desire 
another quarrel Avith the Pope, Avho had already placed 
France under an interdict to punish the King for his 
unjust and cruel behaviour to his second Avife, the for- 
saken Ingelburga of Denmark. We may note that in this 
affair twelfth-century public opinion was strongly against 
Philippe and in favour of Pope Innocent III. 

The King's first marriage Avith Isabelle of Ilainault 
brought him Artois, the Vermandois, Amiens, and the 
50 



The Making of the Monarchy 

district of the Somme. These and other small conquests 
were not gained without fighting, for his wife's uncle, the 
Count of Flanders, was a powerful personage. But the 
chief struggle of the reign was with the chief vassal and 
rival, the King of England ; and the chief triumphs over 
him and his allies were the siege of Chateau-Gaillard and 
the battle of Bouvines. 

The history of Richard Lion-heart and his magnificent 
new castle must be read elsewhere : how he and Philippe- 
Auguste set out on the Third Crusade as friends ; how 
Philippe seized the first excuse for returning to the land of 
his thought and hope, and there, while Richard lay in an 
Imperial prison, allied himself with the traitor John Lack- 
land to despoil and divide Normandy ; how Richard, 
being set free, returned to France, and how John, warned 
by Philippe " The devil is loose ; take care of yourself ' 
easily gained a pardon from his generous brother. Then, 
in that splendid position, where its ruined walls, at each 
hour grey, or pink, or apricot-yellow, still with a ' saucy ' air 
command the winding Seine, Richard built his Chateau- 
Gaillard to defend Rouen, his Norman capital, against the 
French king. The story goes that Philippe cried : "I 
will take it, were the walls of iron ! " and that Richard 
retorted, hearing this : "I would hold it. were the walls 
of butter ! ' He had no chance. The arrow at Chaluz 
ended his heroic life when his castle, his ' daughter,' was 
but one year old. The defence was left to John, his 
unworthy successor. 

Philippe took up the cause of young Arthur, son of 
Geoffrey, the rightful heir, and on the boy's mysterious 
death cited John to answer before his suzerain for the 
murder. John refused. Philippe declared his fiefs 
confiscated to the French Crown, and marched into 
Normandy. 

51 



Stories from French History 

Chateau-Gaillard was not a castle only ; it was a great 
fortress, including the villages of Les Andelys, an island in 
the Seine, and the peninsula formed by the sudden bend of 
the river. A stockade of piles, three deep, stopped navi- 
gation, so that it was next to impossible for an enemy to 
approach Rouen by the river or by either of its banks. 
The castle itself was supposed to be impregnable ; the 
walls of the keep were nine yards thick, and the outer 
defences were planned with extraordinary skill. Richard 
Lion-heart was an engineer of genius. But he was not 
there to guard his glorious work. John was a luckless 
coward, and Philippe was a clever and resolute soldier. 
To him the taking of Chateau-Gaillard was a necessary 
step in the making of the monarchy. 

He invested the fortress in August 1203. He soon 
destroyed the river defences, having seized the peninsula 
without interference from John ; it was indeed scarcely 
defended. After some weak opposition, which soon 
ceased, John allowed the island and the village of Petit- 
Andely to fall into the hands of the French. Then lie 
retired, leaving the castle and its brave garrison to their 
fate. 

Tn the shortening autumn days provisions became scarce, 
and the English men-at-arms were not the chief sufferers. 
Twelve hundred miserable people, inhabitants of Petit- 
Andely, chiefly women and children, were driven out of 
the village and attempted to take refuge in the castle. 
But the English governor could not keep them. Shut 
into the narrow space between the chalk cliff on which the 
castle stood and the river, refused leave to pass by English 
and French alike, these poor creatures died by hundreds 
of cold and starvation. At length, when half were dead, 
King Philippe took pity on the survivors, sent them food, 
and allowed them to escape through his lines. Then he 

52 




O 



I 

'3 c 
.- 



2 

nJ 



O 

<u 

H 



t. 
H 



g 
O 



The Making of the Monarchy 

established his camp round the walls for the winter, and it 
was not till February 1204 that he began the actual attack 
on the castle from the high ground on the south-east 
which finally decided the fate of Chateau-Gaillard and of 
Normandy. The garrison made a most gallant defence, 
but after a month's hard fighting and storming the great 
keep itself was taken and the siege was at an end. After 
that a few months saw Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Tour- 
aine, and other important fiefs added to the territory of the 
kingdom of France. 

Ten years later, in the summer of 1214, Philippe had to 
defend himself against a strong coalition of all his enemies. 
John of England landed at La Rochelle to invade Poitou. 
The Emperor Otto IV, with Ferrand, Count of Flanders, 
and other north-eastern magnates, discontented French 
nobles and citizens, men of Lorraine, German and Italian 
mercenaries, an English force under the Earl of Salisbury, 
altogether an army of some 50,000 men, marched through 
Flanders on their way to Paris, the heart of the kingdom- 
the way of many invasions since that time. And these 
were not days when all France stood together, sure of 
herself, faithful to her rulers. Several of the nobles who 
now led their fighting followers against the King were 
Crown vassals in rebellion against his new and growing 
power. 

Philippe sent his son Louis to oppose King John in the 
west, and advanced to meet his eastern enemies with a 
smaller but most valiant army of his own. The Duke 
of Burgundy rode with him ; many counts and barons ; 
'' great store of other good knights " ; warlike bishops 
and abbots who broke heads and limbs gladly, though 
their calling forbade them to shed blood ; best of all, a 
crowd of brave citizens, the militia of Amiens, Beauvais, 
Compiegne, Arras, Soissons, and other towns, in whom the 

53 



Stories from French History 

spirit of patriotism Avas already beginning to burn with 
a clear flame. 

In the August heat this French army rode forward 
through the forests and over the plains we now know so well. 
We can imagine the heavy horses with their gay trappings 
jostling in the roads, the chain armour of the knights, their 
pointed shields, coloured plumes, surcoats blazoned with 
some device, pennons on bright lances shaking in the sun. 
In advance rode the Sire de Montigny, representing the 
abbey of Saint-Denis and bearing folded about his neck 
its famous banner, the oriflamme, which led the French 
armies for three hundred years, from Louis VI to Charles 
VI and the fatal day of Agincourt. Displayed on a gilded 
lance at the onset of battle, the oriflamme was of flame- 
red silk Avithout embroidery, cut in three long points and 
tied with knots of green. 

The armies met at the bridge of Bouvincs, a village 
betAveen Lille and Tournay ; and the story goes that the 
King rested beneath an ash-tree, in the shadow of a small 
chapel, before leading his men into combat. It appears 
from tradition that he doubted even noAA r the loyalty of 
some of the nobles who folloAved him. The pOAver of these 
feudal magnates was still formidable ; their pride and 
ambition Avere immeasurable. The foremost of those 
Avhom Philippe distrusted not without cause, as his 
grandson knew Avas Enguerrand the Great, Sire de 
Coucy, the builder of the splendid castle it Avas left for 
modern Huns to batter doAvn, and the author of the 
proud saying : 

Je suis ni Roy ni Prince aussy : 
Je suis le Seigneur de Coucy. 

They say that after Mass that morning Philippe laid his 
crown upon the altar in the sight of his barons ready for 
54 



The Making of the Monarchy 

battle, and, standing near by, proclaimed aloud that the 
worthiest among them had only to advance, take, and 
wear it. No man came forward. Then the King caused 
a loaf of bread to be cut into pieces and invited his true 
friends to eat with him, remembering the Apostles who 
ate with Our Lord. But if there were any traitors present, 
or men of evil thoughts, they were forbidden to draw near. 
The barons rushed as one man to take the bread, those 
whom the King had suspected foremost among them ; 
Enguerrand de Coucy first of all. Then the King was 
4 exceeding glad ' and told them how greatly he loved 
them. And they cried to him to ride boldly into battle, 
for they were ready to die with him. 

They kept their word, and the fight began merrily, while 
the onflamme fluttered in the sunshine and the King's 
chaplains sang psalms in the rear. On both sides of the 
bridge the warriors attacked each other, fighting with 
swords, daggers, and pikes in a furious melee. At first 
the knights in the Emperor's army were too proud to 
measure weapons with the gallant militia of the French 
towns, but soon they were forced to do so and the fighting 
became general. The Bishop of Beauvais fought like a 
lion and felled the Earl of Salisbury with his episcopal 
mace. Both the Emperor and the King were unhorsed 
and narrowly escaped death by stabbing. The Emperor 
fled from the field and his dukes and princes galloped 
after him. The Counts of Flanders and Boulogne were 
taken prisoner. The English force held out longest ; but 
in the end the coalition was thoroughly beaten, and 
Philippe-Auguste, in this battle of a few hours, had not 
only gained glory for himself and his dynasty but had 
proved to France that she was a nation, and as such able 
to defy her national enemies. And by the way, the English 
Great Charter was a direct result of the battle of Bou vines. 

55 



Stories from French History 

Philippe returned to his city of Paris with all the 
triumph of a conqueror : bells ringing, country roads 
strewn with flowers, folk running from the villages to 
stare and rejoice. Even more attractive than the sight 
of the King and his battered warriors was that of the 
"fat and mournful" Count of Flanders as they carried 
him, chained in a horse-litter, to his prison in the 
new royal fortress. 

" Lors fut FeiTund tout enferre 
Dans la tour du Louvre enseriv ! " 

sang the witty citizens of Paris. 

For the capital, Philippe-Auguste did very much the 
same as for the kingdom : he guarded and completed it. 
Paris had grown in size during these centuries, spreading 
over the northern and southern hills. The University 
was already founded ; the cathedral of Notre-Dame was 
in progress of building. But the city was neither enclosed 
nor fortified ; it was a confused labyrinth of unpaved 
streets and lanes, straggling among fields and gardens, 
here and there a church and a burial-ground, farther out a 
great monastery, such as St Germain of the Meadows, 
standing in its own wide domain. The city had suffered 
terribly from visitations of storm and flood during the early 
years of the thirteenth century. In 1206, the chronicles 
tell us, it was entirely inundated, and its foundations 
so shaken that the houses became a peril. Even the 
one stone bridge, the Petit-Font, was half destroyed 
and so we are told only remained standing to allow of 
the passage of the shrine of Sainte-Genevieve and the 
weeping, praying procession that followed her. In a 
former flood two of the bridges were carried entirely away ; 
overweighted with houses and shops as they were then and 
for many later centuries, they could not stand against the 
56 



The Making of the Monarchy 

great pressure of the water : on that occasion King 
Philippe had to fly from his palace on the Island to the 
Hill of Sainte-Genevieve. 

His works and buildings, if they could not ensure the 
city against such ravages as these, gave it much strength, 
security, and beauty. His new castle of the Louvre, a 
solid keep with corner towers 

Le vieux Louvre, 
Large et lourd 

was really for defence, a chief bastion, it seems, in the 
long moated wall he built all round central Paris, with 
towers at intervals of which traces still remain a 
beautiful wall of stone, with a gate at the end of each 
principal street, formerly unguarded from suburbs and 
country. He also paved the streets, and between his new 
wall and the mass of buildings he left space for market- 
gardens to supply the city. It was said and it was a 
wonderful thing for those times that every man received 
fair compensation whose house or property was interfered 
with by the royal improvements. 

Learned men, poets, writers of romance and of history, 
builders, and masters in all arts flourished in France under 
her first really great king. Though at the infinite distance 
of inferior character which no cleverness could bridge, 
Philippe-Auguste fulfilled something of his youthful 
aspiration to follow in the footsteps of Charlemagne. 
Under him France became France, and the old feudal 
system of unjust privilege began slowly to give place to 
national law. 



57 



CHAPTER VI 

A MOTHER AND SON 

That daughter there of Spain, the Lady Blanch, 

/s niece to England. SHAKESPEARE 

At the end of the First Renaissance, France was fairer, richer, 
freer than she had been for a thottsand years, full of liberties, 
poems, and cathedrals. MARY DTTCLAUX 

WE all know "the Lady Blanch," paragon among 
princesses, suggested by the blunt yet diplo- 
matic First Citizen of Angers as a bride for 
Louis of France. Perhaps we do not always picture that 
same lady as "Blanche of Castile," best of mothers to the 
best of men and kings, Louis IX. 

The Citizen spoke freely of her " beauty, virtue, birth," 
and one may notice that she showed wit and wisdom be- 
yond her years for she, like the young son of Philippc- 
Auguste, was a mere child at the time in the opinion she 
formed and expressed of her future husband : 

Further I will not flatter you, my lord, 

That all I see in you is worthy love, 

Than this : that nothing do I see in you, 

Though churlish thoughts themselves should be 

your judge, 
That I can find should merit any hate. 

Shakespeare knew the character of Louis VIII, oddly 
surnamefl 'the Lion' some historians say 'in derision,' 
others because of his stoutly obstinate copying of Philippe- 
Auguste. Perhaps his youthful invasion of England may 
have inspired flatterers. He marched up and down his 
kingdom a good deal, led another crusade against the un- 
58 



A Mother and Son 

lucky Albigeois, conquered more territory for the Crown 
and appointed royal officers to overawe the nobles. To 
this colourless Capet prince, whose chief merits were 
loyalty to his father and entire trust in his wife, the Lady 
Blanche was married for twenty-six years. Her husband 
reigned for only three of those years. She became Regent 
of France in the year 1226 ; the mother of six children, of 
whom Louis, the eldest, was then eleven years old. 

To the Spanish-Angevin princess, the granddaughter 
of the great King Henry II and his brilliant wife from 
Aquitaine, whose daughter Eleanor married Alfonso the 
Noble of Castile, France owed her glorious St Louis, in 
whom " chivalry received its crown." From her grand- 
father Blanche inherited her resolute mind and statesman- 
ship ; from her grandmother, not only the beauty and 
attractiveness that even her enemies could not resist, but 
perhaps the less charming qualities of which her daughter- 
in-law was to have experience. 

Suddenly, for her husband's death was unexpected 
and not without a touch of mystery Queen Blanche 
found herself the ruler of a country far from peaceful or 
united, in spite of the foundations so strongly laid by 
Philippe-Auguste and his son. 

On the surface the advance was splendid : there were 
prosperous cities that held great fairs and whose merchants 
travelled to and from all lands, trading with the East, with 
Spain, Italy, England. The crusaders had brought back 
the secrets of Eastern manufactures, beautiful things in 
glass, silk, linen, jewellers' work in gold, precious stones, 
and enamel ; rare fruits and flowers. The University of 
Paris was even now not alone in attracting thousands of 
students, an unruly crowd but passionate for learning ; 
Orleans had begun to teach Roman law, a marvellous 
revival, and chemistry, medicine, alchemy, astrology, 

59 



Stories from French History 

even magic, could be studied at other local universities. 
These latter arts were not encouraged by the Church ; 
but if she looked suspiciously on such gropings of the 
human spirit, her own work at this time was magnificent. 
The cathedrals, glorious in carving and colour, were the 
proofs and homes of a religious enthusiasm never equalled 
later ; the many abbeys and convents, especially those of 
St Benedict, were centres of study, charity, and work ; 
and by this time the followers of St Francis and St 
Dominic, in all their fresh fervour, were travelling the 
roads and preaching the Gospel. Famous poems, romances, 
and chronicles were being written ; the civilized arts and 
manners of daily life, no longer a monopoly of the South, 
where the Courts of Love and the music of the troubadours 
fell silent in the cruel Albigensian wars, had spread them- 
selves over France. There was luxury in castle and town ; 
but still the feudal barons watched all changes grudgingly, 
catching at any chance of recovering their power, and still 
the roads were unsafe, and still, though thousands of serfs 
had been freed by royal decree, the poor cultivators were 
at the mercy of their lords. For the frowning castle was 
but a hundred yards away ; Paris and the king's justice, 
perhaps a hundred leagues. 

Such was the country through which the Lady Blanche 
and her boy rode hard for Reims, where all the great 
Crown vassals were summoned to assist at his coronation 
on Advent Sunday, 1226. But they did not come. Only 
three hundred knights attended the little King to the 
cathedral, all in its new splendour, for the crowning of the 
best ruler France ever had. The great nobles held aloof, 
determined to show at once that they would yield no 
obedience to a woman. And now France might have 
proved the truth of the Preacher's saying, 'AVoe 
to thee, O land, when thy king is a child," for she 
GO 



A Mother and Son 

would have fallen back under the selfish tyranny of a 
thousand masters, had the Regent been of a weaker 
strain. 

The rebellious barons assembled themselves, Henry III 
of England, holding the fief of Aquitaine, being their 
nominal head. They were strong enough without him. 
The splendid Count Thibaut of Champagne was their 
leader, and among the foremost were Enguerrand de 
Coucy Bouvines forgotten Hugues de Lusignan, who 
married the widow of King John, Raymond VII of 
Toulouse, chief magnate of the South. They gathered an 
army and attempted to cut off the young King from his 
capital. 

At first, it would seem, Queen Blanche was hardly 
strong enough to meet them in the field. But she had 
other weapons, readier to her hand than swords and cross- 
bows. It was not now, one can well believe, that the 
Count of Champagne, Thibaut le Chansonnier, chief of 
trouveres, successor of the troubadours, was first attracted 
by the most beautiful and cleverest woman of her day. 
There is a story that when King Louis VIII lay dying 
of camp-fever men whispered of poison, and pointed to 
Thibaut of Champagne. 

The Court, with a weak following of loyal nobles, was at 
the royal castle of Montlhery, not far south of Paris. The 
rebel army was strongly posted on the Seine, not many 
leagues away. From the one to the other a secret 
messenger rode in dark night. It was a service of danger, 
for more reasons than one : the Regent risked grave mis- 
understanding from her own friends, had her plan become 
known. But in that age of chivalry she had many a 
gallant young man among her people who would do her 
bidding without a questioning thought ; and one of these 
proved worthy of her trust. 

61 



Stories from French History 

The King and his mother sat on two high chairs in the 
vaulted hall, ladies and knights and hooded chaplains 
standing round, little dogs playing at their feet. Evening 
had closed in and the light was dim, logs blazing fitfully, 
gusts of wind blowing the torches. Outside, round about 
the towers, night-birds shrieked now and then. The 
Queen's beautiful, dark-browed face was strained with 
anxiety, which her attendants, naturally, thought they 
understood. Louis, in purple gown and royal mantle 
and cap of blue, his light brown hair hanging down on each 
side of his thin young face, laughed as he listened to a story 
a courtier told him. But there was a lack of life in the 
royal party, for Paris was barred to them. 

On this scene there suddenly enters a strange minstrel, 
a minstrel from the South, they say ; a dark man dressed 
in green, with glowing eyes which he hardly lifts from the 
rush-strewn floor. He is a welcome distraction : they 
bring him a cushion at the Queen's feet ; he touches his 
small harp and sings in a lovely voice a romance of the 
southern mountains and sea, of a crusader's return to his 
castle and his love ; somewhat tragical and old-fashioned, 
unlike the lighter modern nature-music of the trouveres, 
but pleasing to Queen Blanche with her serious Spanish 
blood. At least, so it would seem ; for the stern face 
softens, a faint rose-flush rises to the pale cheeks, and 
presently the Queen bends from her height and speaks to 
the minstrel, perhaps asking for news from the South. 
And since he appears unwilling to answer aloud, she waves 
her courtiers back, and while the boy-king, weary of those 
dismal strains, escapes gladly by her leave with his dogs, 
she holds a long, low parley under curious eyes with the un- 
known or disguised singer. Not till after he had left the 
castle as mysteriously as he entered it did the loyal group 
there ask itself, had any man in France such a singing 
C2 



A Mother and Son 

voice, such a faultless touch on the strings as Count 
Thibaut of Champagne ? 

The royal party travelled unmolested to Paris, whither 
Queen Blanche had already sent messengers. To make 
the road safe for the King the men of Paris had marched 
out in thousands to guard it. Years after Louis IX told 
his friend and chronicler, the Sieur de Joinville, how " the 
road was thronged with people, armed and unarmed, all 
loudly praying to Our Lord to give him a long life and 
to defend him from his enemies." An old illumination 
shows us the bright face of the boy as he sits opposite his 
mother in a kind of wheeled chariot drawn by led horses, 
and looks out on the heads, bare or tall-hatted, the waving, 
welcoming hands of his faithful citizens. 

The war between Queen Blanche and the nobles dragged 
on for several years ; but Count Thibaut's sudden rally to 
the King's cause, and the loyalty of Paris and other large 
towns, made the royal victory finally certain. Under his 
mother's constant and careful training, the delicate lad 
grew into the man of strong moral character, wise judg- 
ment, unflinching faith, whose plain and humorous speech 
and fearlessly righteous acts, even in opposition, when 
necessary, to bishops and archbishops, are written in the 
pages of Joinville. Blanche, in whom wisdom dwelt with 
prudence, was the fount and origin of all. She Avas the 
chief of her son's tutors : he sat at her feet in the old 
palace, diligently learning, a bridge only dividing him 
from the hill of the University and the famous Rue du 
Fouarre, where the students in their crowds, boys and 
young men from every province and nation, in later years 
the great Dante himself, lounged on bundles of straw and 
listened to their professors shouting Latin from windows 
in beetling gables above. 

So Louis IX grew up under the shadow of Notre-Dame 

68 



Stories from French History 

still unfinished and in the midst of the noisy, eager, 
independent eity that loved him. Those years of his 
youth and early manhood may well have been, even be- 
fore she had reduced the number and power of his enemies 
and victoriously ended the long struggle with the South, 
the happiest years of life for the Lady Blanche. 

Unluckily, to her many and great virtues was added the 
jealous temperament not rare in women of strong char- 
acter. It was her duty to find a wife for her eldest son, 
and in marrying him to Marguerite of Provence, some 
years younger than himself and childish at that, she per- 
haps flattered herself that Louis would remain as much 
hers as ever. And indeed he never failed in devotion to 
his mother. But he fell in love with his little wife, who 
was a singularly charming girl, and it must be owned that 
Blanche behaved as badly as any mother-in-law of fiction, 
treating Marguerite with excessive harshness and doing 
her best to keep the two young creatures apart, so that 
they were actually driven to secret meetings on winding 
castle stairs. 

When King Louis, after a serious illness, undertook the 
Seventh Crusade, and when his mother, left once more 
Regent of France, " made as great mourning as though he 
lay dead before her eyes," it may have been a bitter drop 
in her cup that the Queen sailed with him. But Blanche 
had reason to mourn, for she never saw her son again. 

The sad, entrancing story of St Louis and his two 
Crusades ranks high in the Christian romance of the Holy 
Places. But the aspect of the Seventh Crusade that most 
concerns French history is the effect of these wars on the 
King's own character. Always heroic, generous, and 
utterly unselfish, this earnest soldier of the Cross returned 
to France after six years, saddened by failure, by the con- 
duct of his brothers, by his mother's death in his absence, 

64 




Tha Sainte-Chapelle 
X Photo 



A Mother and Son 

but with all his noble qualities strengthened, his religion 
deepened, a keener sense of duty to his people and a higher 
wisdom in fulfilling it. 

Now we see him as the ideal king, whose right to that 
eminence has not been disputed by the most cold-blooded 
of historians. It has been said that if Philippe-Auguste 
created the monarchy, his grandson breathed into it the 
enthusiasm of life and showed what it could be. The 
King's justice meant safety for the people ; the King's 
peace meant the freedom of the roads. His officers, like 
Charlemagne's, were everywhere ; his judgments were 
unquestioned, except by evil-doers ; his laws were 
supreme. The feudal nobles met their match in this 
delicate, gentle-mannered man, who " could even bear to 
have the truth told him." Old Enguerrand de Coucy, 
proudest of barons, had hanged three students in a row 
for killing rabbits on his domain. He was shut up in 
the Louvre and condemned to death, being fortunate to 
escape with a heavy fine and the loss of his baronial rights. 

Tradition and Joinville show us the King, that glory of 
the Middle Ages, sitting in the Forest of Vincennes or the 
gardens of Paris, dressed in a blue camel's hair coat and a 
cloak of black taffety, " his hair well combed . . . and a hat 
of white peacock's feathers upon his head," surrounded by 
citizens and country-folks, who might talk with him and 
bring him their requests without any go-between. These 
were his ways with the smaller people ; but when he 
received foreign princes and great barons his Court was 
splendid and his manner stately. 

There were not lacking scornful spirits who complained 
of the King's religious observances, of the money he gave 
to churches and abbeys, of the hours he spent on his knees 
in that exquisite Sainte-Chapelle, the gem of his time, 
which he had built as a shrine for the great relic, the 
E 65 



Stones from French History 

Crown of Thorns, sent to him from Constantinople. There 
is a story that a woman who came one day to plead before 
him perhaps under the oak at Vincennes said to him : 
' Fie ! thou King of France ! Some one else should be 
king ! Thou art only a king of friars and preachers, 
priests and clerks. 'Tis pity thou art King of France, and 
'tis a marvel they don't put thee out of the kingdom." 

The King's sergeants were about to drive the woman 
forth with blows, but Louis forbade them to touch her, and 
answered her, smiling : " Thou sayest well. I am not 
worthy to be king, and had it pleased Our Lord, another 
might have been king who would have known better how 
to govern." 

Then he ordered that money should be given her, and 
sent her away in peace. 

The King's best friends might have perceived some 
grain of truth in the woman's complaint when in spite of 
all their prayers he left the kingdom that needed him so 
sorely, to embark, already ill, on that last useless Crusade 
from which he was brought back in sorrowful pomp to his 
tomb at Saint-Denis. 

Joinville in old age lamented that never again, since the 
good King forsook France, had the country been what 
it was in his day, " at peace within itself and with its 
neighbours." 



GO 



CHAPTER VII 

THE PROVOST OF THE MERCHANTS 

Celte ville 
A ux longs eri.i, 
Qui profile 
Son front gris, 
Des toitsfrehft, 
Cent tourelles, 
dockers grcles, 
C'est Paris! 

VICTOR Huf:o 

A YOUNG prince rode from Poitou to Paris in the 
early autumn weather. 
France was at her loveliest in those ' crystal 
days,' as they call them in the South-west, the woods 
touched with gold, not so much spread under a blue sky 
as bathed in an immeasurable height of blue air. The low 
green valleys of the streams were already cold, but on the 
heights, the purple and almost trackless moors, the bare 
stony hills, there was glorious September sunshine. Now 
a long bridge crossed a wide river creeping among sand- 
banks, and a fortified lane climbed from its head to some 
white town or city. Now the road dived through narrow 
lanes edged by stone walls, above which vineyards, ready 
for the vintage, but neglected and straggling, climbed 
chalky slopes to the sky. Now a winding track through 
marshy country full of reeds ended in a forest so thick 
that the turrets of a castle hidden among the bronzing oak- 
boughs rose a sudden apparition. Then a wide plain with 
distant shining towns, with scattered villages and some 

67 



Stories from French History 

J 

attempt at cultivated fields, spread to the horizon. But 
in all that ride through the pleasant land of France hardly 
a man, woman, or child was to be seen. For it was not very 
long since the Black Death had destroyed a third part of 
the people : and now also on every side, in ruin and loneli- 
ness, were the signs of desolating war. No corn, no 
cattle : and any human being that peered from cover, any 
labourer, armed with his scythe, who glared when the hoofs 
clattered by, expected to see yet another band of brigands, 
French or English or foreign, the dreaded Free Companies, 
ready to tear the last morsel from his children's mouths 
and to drive his last thin beast from its straw shelter. 

For France was in the seventeenth year of the Hundred 
Years War ; and the prince who rode to Paris was 
Charles the Dauphin flying from the battle-field of Poitiers, 
where his father, King Jean le Bon, had been taken 
prisoner by Edward the Black Prince, and where the rash- 
ness of the chivalry of France had lost the clay for their 
unhappy country. 

A heavy task lay on the shoulders of this lad of twenty, 
now Lieutenant of the kingdom. In later years he was 
known as Charles the Wise, and was probably the best 
King of France since his ancestor St Louis. But it 
was a dismal, thin-faced, unhealthy youth who now, 
slouching on his horse's neck, galloped with a few followers 
to Paris to meet the hurriedly summoned States-General, 
hoping by their means to raise money for his father's huge 
ransom and to carry on the war. A truce with England 
would give him time: and France surely would not be 
content with threatened terms of peace which would leave 
her a smaller and weaker country than in the days of 
Philippe-Auguste. Yet who could tell ? Most of her 
great men were dead ; many of the living, released on hard 
conditions by the English, thought of nothing but how to 
68 



The Provost of the Merchants 

grind out of the bones of their poor neighbours the ransom 
they owed. And the towns, the one hope, the merchants, 
the traders, the hated Jews with their money-bags would 
they pour out gold to save France ? That depended on 
the humour of the Three Estates, first convoked by 
Philippe le Bel, for his own ends, in 1302. They were not 
too friendly in these days to the claims of royalty. They 
had already quarrelled with King Jean as to a fresh levy 
of taxes ; and at the head of the opposition stood a strong 
man called ^tienne Marcel, the Provost of the Merchants 
of Paris. 

Approaching the city by the old road between the 
south-western hills partly clothed with vineyards and 
studded with a few of that ring of windmills which sur- 
rounded old Paris Charles the Dauphin called to his side 
his two chief counsellors, both high officers of the Crown, 
Robert de Clermont, Marshal of Normandy, and Jean de 
Conflans, Marshal of Champagne. To these men, speak- 
ing with his nervous, twisted smile, he confided his fear of 
Marcel and his influence with the Estates. They were a 
pair of splendid nobles, fierce and gay ; the usual pattern 
of French knighthood in the mid-fourteenth century, 
which flaunted in bright colours and played at war as a 
game. One can well believe that they laughed the boy's 
uneasiness to scorn. 

A great crowd had gathered at the gate of the spired 
and gabled city : there were clergy and lawyers in pro- 
cession ; there were the trade guilds with their banners, 
a solid company ; there was a prodigiously noisy and push- 
ing mass of University students, for once taking a holiday 
from fighting the monks of Saint-Germain-des-Pres for the 
enjoyment of their pleasant meadows ; and surging from 
every lane, filling the narrow streets where dogs fought and 
pigs squealed and routed in the gutter, were the low people 

69 



Stories from French History 



j 



of Paris in their thousands ; squalid, diseased, with faces 
as of creatures only fit for the vast, overflowing Cemetery 
of the Innocents on the other side of the river. 

It was not a kindly welcome that this varied crowd 
offered to the Prince who had fled from Poitiers. It might 
be outwardly respectful ; but the meaner sort snarled 
and hissed, and many bitter words were smothered in the 
general hubbub and drowned by the booming and jangling 
of bells from a hundred steeples. And the temper of the 
Parisians was mirrored in the face of the ruler of Paris, the 

> 

Provost of the Merchants, Eticnne Marcel. 

He met the Dauphin, riding on a mule : a dark, tall 
man. with heavy features and an obstinate jaw. There 
may have been something of the old Roman in his square 
brow and frowning eyes ; for it has been suggested that 
his ancestors were the Marcelli of Rome : but this seems 
to be no more than an instance of the imagination which 
plays a delightful part in history. Be that as it may, this 
chief of the citizens of Paris reminds one of popular leaders 
in an age before France was a nation, and the type has 
often repeated itself since his day. 

Marcel received the Dauphin in the city's name and 
attended him to the palace still, though enlarged, the old 
royal palace on the Island, the centre of the city, its 
windows looking down the river, where Philippe- Augustc 
judged and St Louis studied and prayed. The Louvre-, 
little altered in these two centuries, was still a fortress- 
prison rather than a residence ; and now. farther east, on 
the Place de Greve, a fine old building called the Maison 
des Piliers was being transformed by Marcel into the first 
Hotel de Ville. the Guildhall of Paris and the heart of her 
later historv. 

* 

In successive sittings of the States-General through that 
autumn and winter of 135G the Dauphin Charles tried 
70 



The Provost of the Merchants 

vainly to gain his ends with a most troublesome assembly. 
For the First Estate, the nobles, were few and weak ; the 
Second Estate, the clergy, were divided ; and the Third 
Estate, the burghers of Paris and the large towns, under 
Marcel's guidance, were bent on flouting the royal 
authority. 

This younger, Valois branch of the House of Capet, 
which, through a revived law of the Salian Franks barring 
women from the possession of land, had succeeded the sons 
of Philippe le Bel hence the Hundred Years War 
hardly ever gained the nation's confidence to the same 
degree as the old kings before them. To a frequent strain 
of wildness that displeased the rising bourgeoisie they 
mostly added forgetfulness of the doctrine, preached and 
lived by St Louis, that a true king must reign as the father 
of his people. 

The Estates replied to the Dauphin's requests by 
demands of their own, covering all the discontents and 
miseries of the kingdom. In the spring, as the only means 
of obtaining his needed money, Charles was forced into an 
empty assent to drastic reforming ordinances which neither 
he nor his father could ever have carried out. For they 
were so far in advance of the times as to amount to revolu- 
tion ; they made the Estates masters of France, destroyed 
the privileges of the nobles and restricted those of the 
King. 

Marcel was in bitter earnest, and reforms were desper- 
ately needed. Yet he was hardly patriotic ; for that 
moment, France lying at the feet of the victorious English 
King, was one for realizing old duties rather than claiming 
new rights. Apparently France thought thus, in spite of 
her sufferings, for Marcel's tug-of-war with the Dauphin 
had not lasted many months when the Provost began to 
know that he and his burghers were almost alone in their 

71 



Stories from French History 

obstinate bargaining. A few bishops, especially those of 
Paris and Laon, were of his party, and one or two nobles ; 
but the larger towns did not care to be ruled by Paris, the 
country people were dumb, and the royal cause, on the 
whole, held its own. 

The doubt of final success seems to have lashed Marcel 
to fury. He set to work to fortify Paris, digging ditches 
and building the new wall, finished later by Charles V, to 
enclose the city, which had far outgrown that of Philippe- 
Auguste. He allied himself with Charles le Mauvais, 
King of Navarre, the Dauphin's imprisoned cousin and 
enemy, fetching him to Paris, where his clever tongue 
harangued the people in the interest of the Third Estate 
and in his own. This and other steps led on to a desperate 
deed by which Marcel meant to terrify the Dauphin, but 
only advanced his own failure and ruin. 

Paris was growling, as her way is ; stormy crowds 
capped with the Provost's colours, red and blue, were 
building barricades at the head of the streets. News ran 
round that the Dauphin was betraying the city ; that 
there would be no reforms ; that things were growing 
worse, for the coin of the realm was to be thinner ; that 
Charles of Navarre would be a better king than Charles of 
Valois, who listened to evil counsellors and did not trust 
the people. This at least was not true, for the young 
Prince had ventured almost alone among the angry crowds 
to plead his own and his captive father's cause against 
Etienne Marcel. 

It was a day in February 1358 ; a pale sun shining, the 
river running fast and full. The Dauphin had removed 
for safety to the Louvre and was holding his small Court 
there, a few bishops and nobles standing round him, 
nearest of all his two staunch friends, Robert de Clermont 
and Jean de Conflans. They were consulting on the perils 
72 



The Provost of the Merchants 

of the situation. Some advised the Prince to leave the 
city, where he was half a prisoner, but Charles said nay 
to that. He was not willing to surrender Paris utterly 
to the Provost of the Merchants. Paris had been evilly 
led, but might come to a better mind, he said, and 
smiled on his friends ; the sickly youth was far-sighted, 
with a kind of nervous courage. The two marshals 
applauded him : the very thought of giving way to a 
set of greasy shopkeeping knaves was odious to their 
proud spirits. 

Then a great noise without announced the Provost of 
the Merchants, and Etienne Marcel entered the Dauphin's 
presence, attended by a number of burghers and hired 
men-at-arms. 

There he stood, a big, tall figure in his gown of office. 
flushed face and dark threatening eves shaded bv the 

*. i, 

hood of red and blue. The pale Prince on the dais, in gold 
brocade and ermine and velvet cap circled with gold, 
shrank before him ; the little Court stared, defiant yet 
anxious, at the fierce following ready to enforce any 
demands this insolent Provost might make. 

But the day of demands was over, except as disguising 
a violent resolve. Marcel attacked the Dauphin with 
sharp words of reproach. Why did he not take heed to the 
affairs of the kingdom ? Why did he suffer France to be 
devastated by robbers, by the Free Companies, by the 
soldiers of two nations ? He had inherited this realm : 
whv did he not defend it ? 

V 

" Right willingly would I defend it, had I the power or 
the means," the Dauphin answered him. " But I have 
nothing. Those who take the riches of the State must 
defend it." 

Under the terrible eves of Marcel his courtiers echoed 



his words ; especially, we may well believe, the tAvo nobles 



78 



Stories from French History 

whom the people's leader had already condemned. A few 
moments of bitter speech brought the scene to its tragic 
end. 

'Do quickly what you came to do ! " Marcel cried to his 
hired assassins. 

They were ready, with swords drawn. As appointed, 
they rushed upon the tw r o marshals where they stood at the 
Dauphin's side, cut them down, and killed them as they 
crashed at his feet, with such fury that their blood splashed 
on his brocaded robe. None of the Court dared defend 
them ; the odds were too heavy ; otherwise Marcel might 
then and there have met the death that awaited him a few 
months later. The young Prince fell back, sickened and 
terrified. Was his turn the next ? The Provost told him 
he had nothing to fear ; these men were evil traitors, slain 
by the will of the people. Snatching off his own parti- 
coloured hood, he flung it on Charles's head as a sign of 
protection. On his own head he placed the royal cap with 
its circlet of gold ; and thus the King of Paris stalked forth 
to the Hotel de Ville to boast of his deed to the Parisians 
assembled in the Place de Greve. 

The Dauphin could not avenge the death of his friends ; 
they say, indeed, that Marcel forced him publicly to ac- 
knowledge it just. One would like to disbelieve this ; 
but Charles the Wise was a prudent personage, and it 
may have been the onlv wav of safety. 

/ /*/*/ 

Civil war followed the Dauphin's escape from Paris ; 
the angry city and her Provost, with Charles the Bad as 
an ally, against the royal troops, such as they were, and 
the towns and castles of France. The chief sufferers, as 
always were the poor folk of the country-side. And now, 
in the month of May, ' Jacques Bonhomme ' in his 
thousands poured out from every village, every lonely 
forest hut and little hidden farm among burnt walls and 

i~ i 

. i 



The Provost of the Merchants 

plundered fields, and began on his own account to spread 
death and ruin throughout the north-eastern provinces. 
War between the nobles and the burghers gave the 
peasants their opportunity : feudalism met its doom at the 
hands of a savage jacquerie. Many castles were stormed 
and pillaged and burnt ; their inhabitants, even if only 
women and children, were massacred with awful cruelty. 

mt 

As it happens so often in history, the innocent meet with 
punishment earned by the guilty. The wild bands, armed 
with scythes and forks and knives and iron-shod sticks, 
come stealing through the woods ; their sudden horrid 
yells warn the frightened women ; but no defence is 
possible ; doors are burnt and battered in ; the end of all 
things is upon them. They pay most pitifully for the 
tyrannies of their fathers, husbands, sons ; for oppression 
and robbery by men-at-arms and companies ; for all the 
losses and sorrows of ' Jacques ' and his children in these 
terribly troubled years. 

Six weeks saw the end, though the great Provost held 
out a friendly hand to the peasants and even sent a small 
force to help them when they marched on Meaux. But 
the nobles, with the Dauphin at their head, and with the 
help of Charles of Navarre, who now began to see on which 
side his interest lay, defeated them so thoroughly that the 
leaders lost heart and the revolt was soon crushed. Not 
without a slaughter which was almost extermination. 
The wretched peasants were hunted like wild beasts 
through the forests. In a miniature of the time we are 
shown the details of their destruction at Meaux. From 
walls and bridge they are hurled dead or alive into the 
swirling waters of the Marne, while women crowd staring 
to street doors, giving God thanks in horror and pity for 
deliverance from that terror. 

Six weeks more, and the stormy career of Etienne Marcel 

75 



Stories from French History 

was ended. Things were going badly in Paris ; there was 
no money and no food. The Provost saw his power 
dwindling : the Dauphin and the King of Navarre were at 
the gates. Knowing that Charles of Valois would never 
forgive the slayer of his friends, Marcel offered to receive 
Charles of Navarre into the city, to make him Captain of 
Paris and King of France. Le Mauvais, false to every 
cause but his own, was ready enough, and the last night 
of July was fixed for his secret entry by the fortress-gate 
of Saint-Denis. 

Thither came the Provost in the darkness, and there, 
with the keys in his hands, he was met by a citizen named 
Jean Maillard and two others, these being loyal to the 
Dauphin, while Maillard, till now, had been on Marcel's 
side. Thus the plot had come to his ears, and he at least 
had no wish for a change of dynasty. 

" iStienne, Etienne, what doest thou here at this hour ? ' 

" Jean, I am watching over the city that is in my care." 

" Nay, thou art here for no good end. See, friends, he 
bears the keys and would betray the city ! " 

" Thou licst, Jean Maillard."* 

" Thou liest thyself ! Treason, treason ! Ho ! help, 
friends ! " 

There was a short but sharp struggle, for a party of 
Maillard's men were hidden behind the buttresses and now 
rushed forward and flung themselves on the Provost's 
guard. They say that Marcel would have fled, seeing 
that all was lost. But Jean Maillard struck him on the 
head with an axe and there he fell and died ; a strong 
figure in history, who in more peaceful times might have 
done much for the liberties of France. 

So it was Charles the Wise, not Charles the Bad, who 
triumphantly entered the royal city in that August dawn 
of 1358. 
70 



CHAPTER VI11 
A VANISHED PALACE 

But evil things, in robes of sorrow, 

Assailed the monarch's high estate. 
(Ah, let us mourn! for never morrow 

Shall dawn upon him desolate !) 
And round about his home the glory 

That Hushed and bloomed, 
Is but a dim-remembered story 

Of the old time entombed. 

EDGAR A. POE 

THE historical romance of the later fourteenth 
and early fifteenth centuries, years along which 
the war with England stretched its slow length, is 
centred in the wonderful dwelling made for himself by 
Charles V and called the Hotel Saint-Paul " the solemn 
hotel of great Diversions !: of which two hundred years 
later hardly anything remained. It pleased the King's 
fancy; he regarded it with "singular pleasure and affec- 
tion." It was adapted from several large houses belonging 
to certain counts and archbishops, which formed a stately 
turreted group on the north bank of the Seine between the 
city boundary and the river-gate of Saint-Paul ; stretch- 
ing northward to the Rue Saint-Antoine and the newly 
built fortress of the Bastille, so that it included the old 
church and cemetery of Saint-Paul within the sweep of 
its garden walls. 

A pleasant and delightful place it was ; not a single or 
formal building, but a group of beautiful houses connected 
by galleries and trellised walks shaded with vines. The 

77 



Stories from French History 

wine made from the royal grapes was famous. The 
gardens and orchards supplied the palace : there were 
" apple, pear, and cherry trees, beds of rosemary and 
lavender, peas and beans, long arbours and fine bowers." 
There were towers for pigeons and yards for poultry 
brought from the royal farms to be fattened here for the 
royal table. There were also cages of wild and rare 
animals. 

Within, the palace had all the richness of a time that in 
spite of wars and tumults had become luxurious ; carved 
panelling, thick tapestries and curtains ; high emblazoned 
chimney-pieces, painted and gilded beams, windows of 
coloured glass, with wire lattices to keep out the birds ; 
furniture of leather and silk, beds ten or twelve feet square. 
There were music galleries and a library : in its quiet 
peace, shut away from city noises, sat Charles the Wise 
among shelves of precious manuscripts. His weak health 
kept him a prisoner ; he cared little for riding and hunting, 
he hated battles, and did not even care to watch the 
tournaments with which his fighting nobles filled up the 
intervals of real war. Study was what he loved ; history, 
philosophy, mathematics, astrology, and other sciences as 
then taught. These were his recreations. The Parisians 

o 

outside his gates, curious about a King they seldom saw 
and could not understand, whispered strange things and 
gave him credit for dealings with the devil. Few men of 
his own time understood either Charles V or the quiet work 
for France that filled his reign. 

At his accession a third of France was in English 
hands. When he died, the clever mode of warfare carried 
on by his favourite free-lance leader, the famous Bertrand 
du Guesclin, the sturdy Breton to whom war was a science, 
not a game, had almost driven out the invaders for the 
time. And at home Charles V reformed the whole system 

78 



A Vanished Palace 

of law and government. If the country was heavily 
taxed, its poor cultivators were left in peace, except for 
an occasional band of robbers ; the Free Companies were 
driven away to fight elsewhere. The towns gained much 
that Etienne Marcel had demanded ; they prospered, 
managing their own finances ; their municipal officers 
were often ennobled, thus strengthening their rivalry with 
the feudal lords, who now found their master in the King. 
The Parliament of Paris became a high court of law, 
sitting permanently at the palace on the Island. These 
and other ordinances raised France to her feet, even in the 
midst of the Hundred Years War. 

The Court of Charles V at the Hotel Saint- Paul appears 
to have been quietly held, yet peaceful and gay. His 
Queen, Jeanne de Bourbon, was a good woman, in sym- 
pathy with her husband's tastes. Her ladies flitted about 
the gardens, the labyrinth of lovely rooms and galleries, 
like a number of bright-winged birds. It was the fashion 
to wear parti-coloured gowns, half red, half blue, with the 
family arms embroidered on each side in heraldic colours. 
The head-dress stood up in tall horns studded with jewels, 
a white veil flying ; the sleeves of the short upper coat 
dangled from the shoulders in long ends like scarves. 

The dashing nobles of France were not too welcome at 
Court, it seems ; and they more willingly followed the 
King's brothers, the powerful Dukes of Burgundy, Berry, 
and Anjou, les sires des fleurs-de-lys. But all these had 
their lodging in or near the Hotel Saint-Paul ; and at times 
we hear of the King's stately rooms crowded with knights 
and barons, with foreign princes and ambassadors, so that 
there was scarcely room to turn. And among them moved 
the King's own valued counsellors, the red-robed lawyers 
and Parliament men, scornfully described as les mar- 
mousets by the party of the princes. Once at least princes 

79 



Stories from French History 

and barons and marmousets, in spite of their jealousies, 
had to join in doing honour to Bertrand du Guesclin, the 
ugly, rough, scientific little soldier whom Charles V placed 
above them all, making him Constable of France. This 
was in 1370. Ten years later the King buried the Con- 
stable in the royal abbey of Saint-Denis. A few weeks, 
and he was himself laid there. At a perilous time France 
lost both her wise King and her famous leader. 

Among the younger women whom we may fancy haunt- 
ing that magical Hotel Saint-Paul, with her own songs on 
her lips, meeting, with love and laughter, in all the douceur 
dujoli mois de Mai, the riants verts yeux of some beautiful 
young knight who had surprised her heart, was Christine 
de Pisan, daughter of the King's chief astrologer some 
said wizard who brought her from Venice as a child of 
five years old. She married a gentleman of Picardy him 
of the laughing green eyes, possibly and in later years, a 
widow, and known as a writer of genius, she wrote the best 
account that exists of the daily life of Charles V. 

The King rose between six and seven, was combed 
and dressed, joking with his servants the while. After his 
private prayers he attended Mass at eight, with " solemn 
and melodious singing." Then, like St Louis, he received 
all manner of persons, rich and poor, many widows among 
them, and listened kindly to their requests, granting those 
that were reasonable. When not detained too long, he 
held his council before dinner, at which he ate and drank 
little, listening to the softest of music. Then during two 
hours he attended to business, received ambassadors, and 
gave every necessary audience ; then slept for an hour ; 
then amused himself and his friends among his special 
treasures, manuscripts, and curiosities, especially jewels, of 
which he was passionately fond. After vespers in summer 
he walked in the garden with the Queen and his children ; 
80 



A Vanished Palace 

in winter he sat by the fire and listened to reading, 
historical, philosophical, scientific, till supper- time ; then, 
after a short recreation, perhaps in the company of Master 
Thevenin, his favourite fool, at nine o'clock he went to 
bed. 

It does not sound like an exciting life ; but there was 
little strength of nerve or muscle in Charles the Wise ; 
care and quiet only kept him alive to the age of forty-four. 
He did his best for his country, and it was much. On his 
death-bed he told his brothers that the condition of the 
poorer people weighed on his heart, and begged them to 
carry on his work by lifting off, as soon as might be, the 
heavy burden of the taxes. 

Charles could not have spoken to men less likely to obey 
his wishes or to follow out his policy. The Duke of Bur- 
gundy, Philippe le Hardi, who had earned that appanage 
by fighting beside his father at Poitiers when Charles the 
Dauphin rode away, was the first of the line of bold, proud, 
ambitious princes who were to drag France down again 
into those depths of civil war which left her, after all the 
heroic work of du Guesclin and all the wise statecraft of 
Charles V, an easy prey to her enemies. 

Burgundy's chief desire was to assure himself a strong 
dominion in the eastern provinces ; Louis of Anjou, hav- 
ing seized the royal treasure, set out to conquer the 
Kingdom of Naples ; Jean of Berry ruled the south of 
France. Each robbed the country, fighting for his own 
hand. And the two young boys, Charles VI and his 
brother, Louis of Orleans, motherless, for Queen Jeanne 
had died before her husband, were brought up in a vicious 
society, varied by the furious quarrels of their uncles, new 
oppressions of the people, riots in Paris, war on Flanders, 
futile attacks on England. 

Paris had welcomed her handsome young King after 
F 81 



Stories from French History 

his coronation with decorated streets and fountains that 
poured out wine, milk, and rose-water. Now she rose in 
fury against the men who governed in his name, stormed 
the Hotel de Ville, and murdered the tax-collectors. When 
the royal army returned victorious from Flanders she was 
punished like a captured city. Her strong gates were 
thrown down. An old writer says that Paris became like 
any village where folks could go out and in at any hour of 
the day or night. Added to this, enormous new taxes 
were imposed on the citizens. Paris became hungry and 
miserable, her streets filthy and pestiferous, while every 
kind of extravagant luxury reigned in the palaces within 
her walls. 

Yet Paris loved Charles VI. He seems to have attracted 
men's hearts as Henry IV did, by kind looks and courteous, 
chivalrous manners. All through the long tragedy of 
intermittent madness, brought on by wild living, which 
clouded his reign of more than forty years, people never 
forgot that during four of those years he tried to be a good 
king. Young and ignorant, lately married to that white- 
faced, black-eyed woman from Bavaria, who was com- 
pared, as she passed through Paris, to a fairy from the old 
romances, a goddess from some pagan heaven, or a Virgin 
from the painted page of a missal, and who was to prove 
the curse of his life Charles VI had the courage to shake 
himself free of his uncles and to recall his father's ministers, 
the marmousets, to power. Four years, and any small 
chance of peace and prosperity for France vanished one 
summer day in the glades of the forest near Le Mans, 
where the sight of a tall man rushing to his horse's head, 
crying out, "King, you are betrayed ! " and the sound of 
a lance accidentally striking on armour, transformed the 
excitable prince of tAventy-three into a raging madman 
who turned upon his brother and his suite, killing four men 

82 



A Vanished Palace 

before he could be tied down in a cart for the journey back 
to Paris. From this attack he seems to have recovered, 
but a year later the terrible affair known as the Bal des 
Ardents, a masquerade in which several of his companions 
were accidentally burnt to death, threw his weak brain 
into hopeless disorder. 

Up to this time the Hotel Saint-Paul was a place of 
delights; "great Diversions' indeed, though hardly 
4 solemn,' for it was here that Queen Isabelle held her 
scandalous fetes and gathered round her the worst men 
and women in the kingdom, among whom Louis, Duke of 
Orleans, handsome, agreeable, and interesting, took a fore- 
most place. Now the Hotel became the home of a mad 
and melancholy king : men and women looked shudder- 
ing at its graceful towers and shining roofs and sunny 
spaces of greenery, and shed tears of pity for the un- 
fortunate prince who still, through thirty miserable years, 
remained their Bien-aime and in his lucid intervals desired 
their happiness. 

In those days brain disease was more feared than under- 
stood, and though the King was not, like meaner patients, 
chained in a dark cellar on straw, but had a beautiful 
palace for his prison, he was treated with all the precau- 
tions of terror. If he refused to take off his clothes and 
go to bed, which was sometimes the case during several 
months, a dozen men with blackened faces would rush into 
the room, seize him, and undress him by force, he being too 
much frightened to resist them. At these bad times the 
Queen entirely deserted both him and her children, who 
went without food and clothing, they say, while she spent 
the royal revenues on herself and her favourites. Charles's 
one protecting friend was his sister-in-law, the good and 
unhappy Milanese lady Valentina Visconti, Duchess of 
Orleans, who never forsook him till a false accusation of 

83 



Stories from French History 

sorcery drove her away from the Court. Card-playing 
was his chief entertainment. Cards were printed for him 
-almost the first use of printing by a certain Parisian 
painter named Gringonneur ; " three packs of cards, gilt 
and variously coloured, with several devices, to be laid 
before the said Lord our King, for his amusement." 

Through darkened windows the Hotel Saint-Paul 
looked upon the long succession of tragical events which 
led Paris and all France down an ever-quickening descent 
to the worst years of the nation's history : the desperate 
quarrel between Louis of Orleans and his cousin Jean sans 
Peur, Duke of Burgundy, which ended one November 
night in the murder of Orleans by hired ruffians in the 
street ; the Duke of Burgundy's successful bid for power 
and popularity, posing as the friend of the people ; the 
rising against him of the Armagnac faction named from 
the Comte d'Armagnac, whose daughter married the son 
of Orleans ; the long struggle between these two parties, 
actual civil war, and terrible bloodshed, both in Paris 
and the country, till matters were forced to a clear issue 
by the English invasions under Henry V and his conquest 
of Normandy, the last blows which laid ruined France at 
the feet of her enemy. 

Those darkened windows saw half France conquered, the 
Dukes of Burgundy, Jean sans Peur and his son Philippe 
le Bon, allying themselves with the English and accepting 
an English king in succession to Charles VI, the triumphal 
entry of Henry V into Paris, now his city, and his rejoicing 
Christmas there while the streets, not long since running 
with the blood of furious factions, were deserted and 
silent ; no food, no fuel, pestilence slaying its thousands, 
wolves creeping through the broken walls, haunting the 
cemeteries, devouring children and the dead ; church bells 
silent ; and then, within the walls of the palace itself, a 

84 



A Vanished Palace 

poor mad king signing the treaty which gave away his 
son's royal inheritance to an English child a few months 
old ; his grandson, indeed, but with little right, beyond 
that of conquest, to the crown of France. 

The conqueror did not live long to enjoy his glory. 
Henry V died at Vincennes in August 1422. Seven weeks 
later, within the walls of the Hotel Saint-Paul, Charles VI 
left this troublesome world. Not a prince of his own 
family followed those sad remains to Saint-Denis ; the 
curious, high-nosed visage of the chief mourner was that 
of John, Duke of Bedford, Regent of France and uncle 
of her new baby-king. The coffin was lowered into the 
vault ; the broken staves of the attendants clattered down 
upon it. Then a loud proclamation rang through the 
arches of the old abbey-church, where so many kings 
already slept : 

" God have mercy on the soul of the most high and 
excellent Prince Charles, King of France, sixth of the 
name, our natural and sovereign Lord ! God grant long 
life to Henry, by the grace of God King of France and of 
England, our sovereign Lord ! ' 

Charles the Dauphin, the true King of France, was 
wandering with a small army of friends in the forests of 
Berry and Poitou, nearly all France north of the Loire 
being now lost to him. 

Jeanne d'Arc was ten years old. 



85 



CHAPTER IX 
THE STORY OF THE MAID 

Kt maintenant voy, dontfai dcsplaisancc, 
Qa'il tc fonriutt main! grief mat tousteni r. 
Trescrestien, franc royaume dc France. 

CHARLES D'ORLEANS 

<;<ir<lanl son c<eur intact enpleine adversiti- ; 

Tenant tout tin royaume en sa tcnacid', 
]'irant en plein mystere avec sagw ''', 
Mourant en plcin murfijre avec vivacitd, 

Lajil/e dc Lorraine a nulle autre pareillc. 

CHARLES PJJGUY 

FROM desolated cities and mournful palaces, from 
faction fights, murders, and betrayals, it is a 
refreshment to turn to that quiet village on the 
borders of Lorraine where the marvellous girl was born 
who restored the spirit of France and saved her country. 
Jeanne d'Arc stands, it has been said, at the confines of 
two ages. A double light shines upon her ; she " is 
bathed in the latest gleam of the dying Middle Ages, 
gilded by the first rays of the rising Renaissance." Her 
story is at once " incomparable legend and simple truth." 
Brought up in a plain and kindly home like other little 
maidens of Domremy, Jeanne worked in house and fields 
and sometimes, like St Genevieve, kept her father's 
sheep. She never learned to read, but her mother, who 
taught her to weave and to sew, taught her also to believe 
and to pray. She loved her village church ; when its bell 

86 



The Story of the Maid 

rang far over the meadows the little shepherdess would 
kneel devoutly and say her prayers, like St Genevi^ve 
a thousand years before. But never, throughout her 
short life, would Jeanne have dreamed of comparing 
herself with anyone so ancient and so venerable. She 
would certainly have found it incredible that history 
would place her name even higher than that of the 
shepherdess of Nanterre. 

Domremy lay near the frontier and on the highroad. 
News going and coming that way between Flanders 
and Italy, between North and South, passed constantly 
through the village, borne by travellers, soldiers, 
messengers ; thus the inhabitants heard of the desperate 
condition of France, the civil wars, the English victories, 
the conquest of Normandy, the occupation of Paris, the 
proclamation of an English king, the despairing struggle 
of Charles VII in the western provinces against English 
and Burgundians allied to take his crown and devour his 
country. And the village had its own experience. Its 
politics had always been royalist, therefore Armagnac. 
In 1428 it was attacked by a roving company of Bur- 
gundians, and the farmer, Jacques d'Arc, fled with his 
family into Lorraine. The little farm escaped destruction, 
though the church and most of the village was burnt. The 
home of Jeanne is still there, a place of pilgrimage, with its 
long sloping roof and low beams and shadowing fir-trees. 

But Jeanne had known her mission several years before 
the adventure of 1428, which only served to make her more 
certain and more resolute. Ever since she was a child of 
thirteen the gardens and oak-woods of Domremy had been 
for her sacred ground where she saw great lights and 
visions of saints, St Michael, St Catherine, St Margaret, 
and heard their voices commanding her to go into France, 
to join the young King, to help him against his enemies, 

87 



Stories from French History 

J 

and now especially to deliver his city of Orleans from the 
English, who were closely besieging it. 

Such a mission, laid upon a young peasant girl, was sure 
to meet with the anger and derision of her family when 
declared to them. Her father's fury may be well under- 
stood. So may the rude laughter of Robert de Baudri- 
court, captain of the town of Vaucouleurs, when Jeanne 
appealed to him for an armed escort to make her journey 
possible. He told the friendly uncle who accompanied 
her that what the child needed was a good box on the ears ! 
Nevertheless, when she came to him again early in the year 
1429 he supplied her with the men and the arms she asked. 
Leaving parents, brothers, sisters, friends, and the old 
village with its garden full of unearthly lights and its fairy- 
haunted woods, Jeanne rode forth to cross France from 
the Meuse to the Loire, like a young knight on a Crusade, 
dressed as a boy, shepherdess turned soldier, a daily 
amazement, in her courage, modesty, charity, and religious 
devotion, to her rough companions on that dangerous ride. 

The long yellow ruin of the castle of Chinon, where 
Charles VII then was, still crowns the ridge above the 
little town on the Vienne. Thither came Jeanne on an 
early day in March 1429. This is how she is described by 
one who loved her : " She was clad very simply, like the 
varlet of some lord of no great estate, in a black cap with 
a little silver brooch, a grey doublet, and black and grey 
hose, trussed up with many points ; a sword of small price 
hung by her side. In stature she was something above 
the common height of women, her face brown with sun 
and wind, her eyes great, grey, and beautiful, beneath 
black brows, her lips red and smiling. In figure she 
seemed strong and shapely, but so slim she being but 
seventeen years of age that, were it not for her sweet 
girl's voice, and for the beauty of her grey eyes, she might 

88 




Jeanne d'Arc 

Henri Chapu 

Photo Alinari 



88 



The Story of the Maid 

well have passed for a page, her black hair being cut en 
ronde, as was and is the fashion among men-at-arms." 

It was evening, and the castle hall glimmered with 
torches, when Jeanne was admitted to the presence of the 
King and Queen. Charles VII, a dismal, lethargic young 
man of six and twenty, withdrew himself among his lords 
and ladies ; he would try the discernment of this mysteri- 
ous maiden, who like some prophetess of old declared a 
threefold mission to raise the siege of Orleans, to see her 
King crowned at Reims, to drive the English invaders 
from her country. It all sounded like a presumptuous 
dream in the ears of Charles and his Court. But the 
emergency was great, for the loss of Orleans would have 
been the last stroke of ruin. There could at least be no 
danger in hearing what the maiden had to say ; and first, 
would she recognize her King among the crowd of nobles, 
many handsomer than himself, and one, the Sieur de la 
Tremoille, bigger and more gorgeous than the rest ? 
That question was soon answered. Disregarding all 
others, Jeanne went straight to Charles, knelt at his 
feet, and addressing the uncrowned King as " gentle 
Dauphin," wished him long life and told him of her mission. 

The accusation of witchcraft, fatal in the end, when 
joined with envy, hatred, and malice, to the wonderful 
career of the Maid, was not to be escaped even in these 
early days. Some of Charles's followers, and especially 
the churchmen, who could seldom understand any in- 
spiration beyond their own, were inclined to say that she 
was a witch. But her courage, purity, nobleness, faith, 
and devotion disarmed all suspicion at this time. Theo- 
logians pronounced that there was no evil to be found in 
her ; the common people and the soldiers acclaimed her 
as a saint. 

And so the Maid rode with the royal army to Orleans. 

89 



Stories from French History 

She was clothed in white armour and carried a banner of 
white satin powdered with jleurs-de-lys and emblazoned 
with a picture of Our Lord holding the globe and wor- 
shipped by t\vo angels bearing lilies : the device was 
Jhesus Maria. Her arms were a small axe and a conse- 
crated sword marked with five crosses, which was found, 
by her direction, behind the high altar of the church of 
Sainte-Catherine de Fierbois, where she had stopped to 
pray on the journey from Domremy. That shining sword 
was never stained with blood, for Jeanne, always in the 
forefront of battle and more than once wounded, never 
killed a man. But it did not long remain with her, for she 
broke it, after the fruitless siege of Paris, in driving evil- 
doers from the camp ; one of those ill omens which 
announced the tragic end of her mission. 

During the march to the relief of Orleans no such fiery 
discipline was needed ; in its enthusiasm for the saintly 
maiden the army reformed itself. Fierce old soldiers 
ceased to rob and swear, and became humble Christians, 
submissive to her every wish. Michelet describes how on 
the banks of the Loire, before an altar set up in the open 
air, in the lovely springtide of Touraine, the whole army 
heard Mass and confessed their sins. They became young 
as the Maid herself, he says, full of faith, ready to begin a 
new life. She could have led them wherever she would ; 
not to Orleans onlv, but to Jerusalem. 

*/ * 

Jeanne entered Orleans by the river on 29th April, and 
rode through the streets, waving her white banner aloft. 
It was evening, and torches flamed under the shadow of tin- 
old beetling houses on each side of the way. She had 
brought in a convoy of provisions, and the starving people, 
long besieged by the English, thronged upon her so that 
her horse could hardly push his way. They were wild 
with joy, sure that God would save not only Orleans, but 
90 



" The Story of the Maid 

all France, by means of this miraculous Maid. And the 
besiegers without the walls did not deny the miracle- 
working power which had so suddenly changed the spirit 
of an army and a nation. But for them Jeanne was a 
witch, a sorceress, assisted by the Evil One, and two years 
later it was as a witch, alas ! in English eyes, an apostate, 
a worshipper of demons, that she met her martyrdom at 
Rouen. 

For the present she was invincible. Inspired and led 
by her heroic courage, the royal army attacked the be- 
siegers in their strongest posts, and by 8th May the English 
commanders had been driven with great slaughter from 
these defences and were retreating northward. Orleans 
was free, after a siege of a hundred and ninety days. 
Jeanne was wounded in the last attack, but she made 
nothing of this, though the arrow had pierced her neck 
through. The wound had hardly been dressed when she 
was on horseback again, encouraging her men. Five days 
later she was with the King at Tours, urging him to ride 
straight for his coronation at Reims, disregarding the fact 
that the English, with their allies the Burgundians, held 
most of the country he would pass through. 

"In this counsel the Maid was alone, and this heroic folly 
was wisdom itself," says Michelet. But the cool-headed 
politicians who surrounded the King, La Tremoille and 
others even the Due d'Alen9on, Jeanne's ' fair Duke,' as 
she called him, always her supporter thought it advisable 
to go slowly, besieging small towns and driving out the 
English by degrees ; in other words, giving them time 
enough to organize resistance. In vain Jeanne warned 
the King, foretelling that twelve months would see the 
end of her own career. 

Further successes silenced her enemies ; their jealousy 
could not stand against the enthusiastic crowds who came 

91 



Stories from French History 

hurrying from the South, as if on crusade or pilgrimage, 
eager to see the famous Maid and with her to lead their 
King to his coronation. Henry VI, King by conquest, 
had not been crowned within the sacred walls of Reims ; 
and in French eyes that ceremony conferred a right divine. 
It appears to have been the victory of Patay which con- 
vinced timid souls and discredited those who wished to 
linger on the Loire. The English under Talbot had retired 
from Beaugency and were on the plain of the Beauce, not 
then an expanse of waving corn, but a wild tract of country 
covered with low woods and bushy undergrowth in which 
the armv could be and actually was hidden. Jeanne and 

/ * 

her captains, the famous La Hire, Xaintraillcs. Alen^n, 
and the rest, rode up from the victorious assault of Jargeau 
in pursuit of an invisible enemy. And then occurred one 
of those magical incidents which so often throw on 
medieval French history a light from Fairyland and seem 
to link Jeanne the Maid with Clovis and Charlemagne. A 
stag, startled from his lair by the advancing French, fled 
in among the English and betrayed their position before 
the archers had had time to drive their protecting stakes. 
A furious French attack rode them down. The gallant 
Talbot surrendered to Xaintrailles, saying: "Now King 
Charles is master." Jeanne, dismounted and kneeling 
on the battle-field, comforted the dying and wept over the 
dead. 

Sixty leagues of country in enemy occupation still 
divided the royal army from Reims. But town after town 
submitted or was easily taken ; even Troves, from which 
the prudent and the jealous once more counselled retire- 
ment to the Loire. On 17th July the Maid, holding her 
white banner, stood by the high altar in Reims Cathedral 
and saw her King anointed and crowned as successor of 
Charlemagne, and heard the shout of the great crowd that 

92 



The Story of the Maid 

filled the nave : " Vive le Roi a jamais ! ' They wept 
too, that crowd, when the girl-knight in her white armour 
knelt to pay homage, saying, with tears : " O gentle King, 
now is fulfilled the pleasure of God, who willed that I 
should raise the siege of Orleans and that I should lead 
you to this your city of Reims for your sacred coronation, 
showing that you are the true King to whom rightly 
belongs the kingdom of France I " 

This was to be the zenith, the highest point, of the Maid's 
career of earthly victory. And she knew it. In that hour 
of triumph, when she had saved Orleans and all France 
south of the Loire, had crowned her King and discouraged 
his enemies, we meet with a pathetic touch of humanity. 
She is once more the country girl, the home child, the 
petite bergerette of Domremy. Reims was not very far 
from her home : she found herself in the old country, even 
among the old folk, for her relations and neighbours came 
to Reims to see the wonderful sight there. 

" Ah ! " she said, " if it were God's will that I might 
return to serve my father and mother, to keep the flocks 
once more with my sister and my brothers, who would so 
gladly see me again ! ' 

But this was a mere dream, for her work was not done. 
France expected far more from "the Judith of the time," 
who was already honoured with medals, portraits, and 
statues, and was even mentioned in the services of the 
Church. It was rumoured that Jeanne, having saved 
France, would save Christendom, end all heresjr and 
schism, and lead a final crusade against the Saracens. But 
first she must accomplish her mission of driving the English 
out of France. Her spirit, her influence, her personal 
leading were of inestimable value to the newly crowned 
King. She must remain with him, and he offered her any 
reward she chose to ask. Jeanne begged one favour, not 

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Stories from French History 

for herself, but for her native village : that Domremy 
might be made free for ever of the taxes which weighed 
the people down. This was granted. Till the Revolution 
destroyed all past privileges, however honourable their 
origin, Domremy's contribution was marked on the 
register of each succeeding year : " Neant, a cause de La 
Pucelle. ' ' This was the only solid recompense that Jeanne 
received from her countrymen. 

The campaign continued, and on the whole with success. 
Jeanne's ' heroic folly ' -again, probably, the truest 
wisdom would have made a straight dash for Paris, but 
she was hindered by the intrigues and jealousies that sur- 
rounded the King. His courtiers, like Joseph's brethren, 
hated her dreams and her words, and envied her glory ; 
and Charles was too lazy and self-indulgent to resist them. 
They played at truces with the English and Burgundians, 
and the fighting men were discouraged by their hesitations 
and delays ; yet many of the northern towns were ready 
to open their gates to the King. When at last, in spite of 
the Court, Jeanne made her attack on Paris, it failed : she 
was wounded, and forced by royal orders to retire. 

A few sad winter months, spent by the Court in inaction 
on the Loire, and then the Maid rode forth in spring to 
relieve Compiegne, threatened by the Duke of Burgundy. 
There, fighting heroically at the head of the tiny faithful 
troop who were all that was left to her by the commanders 
of the royal army, she was surrounded by the Burgundians 
and taken prisoner. Then, after a few months' captivity, 
she was sold to the English for ten thousand crowns in gold. 
A solemn Te Deum was sung in Paris, and the ' witch,' 
already condemned by the doctors of the University, was 
conveyed to Rouen and given over to the judgment of the 
ecclesiastical courts. 

That long trial, that wicked condemnation, that awful 
94 



The Story of the Maid 

scene in the old market-place at Rouen on 30th May, 1431, 
are among the unforgettable things in history. Jeanne 
died at the stake ; she died at the hands of the English ; 
yet we may be glad to remember that when she begged for 
a cross it was an English soldier who made one by tying 
two sticks together, and that another English soldier 
cried out at the last terrible moment : " We are lost : we 
have burned a saint ! ' 

He spoke more truly than he knew, and after five 
hundred years the world has come to think with him. 
The canonization of Jeanne d'Arc in St Peter's at Rome 
on 16th May, 1920, with all the ancient and splendid cere- 
monies of the Catholic Church, while adding a saint to 
the calendar, was a fine if tardy act of reparation for the 
injustice committed long ago. 

As to her King and his nobles, they made no effort at 
the time to save the heroic girl, the incarnation of all that 
was best in France, the martyr for her country. It is true 
that in Jeanne's own century a new trial and complete 
vindication made her fame some amends. But it was left 
for much later generations to pay highest honour to " the 
gentlest of the gentle, the bravest of the brave, and the 
truest of the true." 



95 



C II APT El? X 

A PATRIOT 

Alack, it was I who leaped at the * 

To (jive it my loving friends to keep! 
XoiKjht man could do, have I left undone: 

And you *ee my harvest) ichaf I reap 
This eery day, now a year in run. 

ROBKRT BROWNIM; 

/I VA1LLANS cceurs rien impossible. 
/J This was the motto of Jacques Coeur, the 
^ A greatest merchant prince of the fifteenth cen- 
tury, through whom the French middle class carried on 
the work of saving their country, so gloriously begun by 
her peasantry in the person of Jeanne the Maid. 

During the earlier years of that century the ancient 
provincial city of Bourges was the centre of France. 
Charles VII was proclaimed there, and until his coronation 
at Reims men knew him scornfully as ' the King of 
Bourges.' There he convened his first States-General, 
and there his eldest son, Louis XI, was born. 

In those years a young man had grown up at Bourges, 
the son of a merchant furrier, in whom a genius for trade 
and finance matched a temper of ardent loyalty and 
patriotism. Jacques Cceur was brave, romantic, adven- 
turous ; in the dying Middle Ages he had the spirit of the 
Renaissance, the spirit that invented printing and dis- 
covered America. While still young he was dealing with 
" all kinds of merchandise," had travelled round the 
Mediterranean, visiting Egypt and Syria, and had estab- 

96 



A Patriot 

lished many trade centres in France and abroad ; in 
France at least, torn and exhausted by war, there were 
few rivals to be feared. His success was swift and 
brilliant. A trading fleet in the Mediterranean, agents in 
a hundred ports, spread the name of Jacques Cceur round 
the known world ; like Venice, he held " the gorgeous East 
in fee." His skill in finance gained him the appointment 
of banker (argentier) to the King. This was in 1436. At 
another time, and to a man of other character, such a post 
might have meant a still greater fortune. Jacques Cceur 
took the royal finances into his hands with a single eye to 
the service of his country. 

Those were years of hard struggle. Though Paris had 
been taken from the English, the Hundred Years War was 
not yet over. The King had no money to carry on the 
necessary campaigns ; it was Jacques Cceur who paid the 
armies from his own coffers, saying to Charles : " All that 
is mine is yours." Four armies were equipped and paid 
at his expense ; and his crowning effort was the conquest 
of Normandy in 1449, which almost completed the freeing 
of France from her foreign invaders. The King and the 
country owed Jacques Cceur a tremendous debt, a debt of 
honour. We shall see how it was paid. 

Fifteen years of devoted work and generous spending 
brought Jacques Cceur to the height of his fortune. He 
was the richest man in the kingdom, the most honest and 
the most honourable, with a capacity for affairs far be- 
yond trade and finance, fully recognized by the King, who 
sent him as president to the Estates of Languedoc and 
as ambassador to Genoa and to Rome. In France this 
merchant held his own among the nobles ; they feared 
his power indeed, for they were a needy, extravagant race, 
and many vast estates were mortgaged to him. He was 
not in any way ostentatious, but he lived with a certain 
G 97 



Stories from French History 

simple splendour, having houses in Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, 
Montpellier, and he possessed a refinement of mind and 
taste, a sort of daring originality cultivated by travel 
and adventure, which set him apart from most of his 
contemporaries. 

To appreciate all this we need only fly to the old city of 
Bourges and imagine Jacques Cceur in the stately house 
which was his real home, and which is still, as the Palais 
de Justice of Bourges, among the artistic glories and his- 
torical monuments of France. He began to build it in 
the year 1443, and it shows his personal fancy in every 
detail. It was built on the ramparts and enclosed towers 
of the old wall ; thus one side overhung the valley, while 
the other faced on the street where Jacques Cceur 's 
statue now stands. With its square-headed windows, 
elegantly soaring roofs, towers and slender staircase- 
turrets, carvings and quaint devices, the house was a 
perfect example of late Gothic beauty. 

The builder's famous motto, in tall letters of stone, may 
be still read on the gateway facade ; everywhere is his 
device, a heart, with a pilgrim's scallop-shell. The space 
over the chief doorway once held a statue of Charles VII 
on horseback, placed there in the days when Jacques Cceur 
was the King's strongest supporter and most trusted 
friend. A curious feature of the front of the house still 
remains in the two stone figures that lean forward, as if 
from windows, on each side of the doorway ; watchers at 
the gate, they seem, set there by a mind aware of danger 
from without. Between a selfish King and his greedy 
favourites on one side, and a rebellious young Dauphin and 
a mob of envious nobles on the other, Jacques Cceur in his 
most splendid days was never safe. As true patriot and 
honest financier, he had a difficult game to play, requiring 
great courage, great skill in affairs, untiring industry, and 
98 



r 




00 



O 

OQ 



3 
O 

ffi 

o> 

4= 

H 



A Patriot 

penetrating knowledge of men and women. Perhaps the 
valiant heart to whom nothing was impossible took too 
little account of this last need, trusting princes and familiar 
friends too far. Or rather, perhaps, while aware of the 
dangers that beset him, he met them too frankly and 
fearlessly. 

With the beautiful house as a background, we may 
imagine a family group met together to celebrate the 
master's fSte-day, the Feast of St James, 25th July, 1451. 
They were gathered in a large upper room, its timbered 
roof shaped like a boat, for Jacques Cceur loved the sea. 
A curious carving above one of the great fireplaces of a 
man and woman playing a game of chess gives another 
personal touch, for these were portraits in stone of Jacques 
Cceur and Macee de Leodepart, his wife. Here on that 
summer day sat these two, playing their favourite game 
once again. 

Both were richly dressed in the fashion of their time. 
Jacques Cceur, with his keen, eager, delicate face, smiling 
and absorbed, had pushed back from his brow the silken 
head-covering, hood and scarf combined. Down from his 
shoulders fell his crimson loose- sleeved gown, and a gilded 
money-bag hung from his belt. Dame Macee, known for 
careless spending which often exceeded even the limits 
set by her generous husband, wore on this day a green and 
gold net which quite hid her closely braided hair, crowned 
with a little cap of rose-coloured velvet from which 
floated a gauzy white veil ; a short gown to her knees of 
pale green silk edged with rose-colour and gold, the sleeves 
long and full to the wrist ; a sweeping under-dress of 
purplish grey, and rose-coloured shoes. Round her neck 
she wore a double row of priceless rubies. Had Dame 
Mace"e been merely the wife of a rich bourgeois, this 
costume would have been not only against custom, but 

99 



Stories from French History 

against law. But the King of his favour had granted 
letters of nobility to Jacques Coeur and his wife and 
children, so that they had their privileged place at Court, 
and their only daughter Perrette was married without 
obstacle to Jacquelin, Seigneur de Marville and Vicomtc 
de Bourges, of the smaller provincial aristocracy. 

Perrette and her husband she, a nun at heart, as simple 
as her mother was gorgeous were present that day in the 
group of Jacques Cceur's children. All were young ; but 
two of the four sons, still under thirty, were already high 
dignitaries of the Church. Jean at twenty-six, having 
lately finished his studies at the University of Paris, had 
been nominated Archbishop by the Chapter of Bourges ; 
and though the Pope had hesitated to confirm this appoint- 
ment, which carried with it that of Metropolitan and 
Primate of Aquitaine, the persuasions of King Charles VII 
were at length successful. As Jacques Cceur's biographer 
remarks, nothing gives a better idea of the honour and 
credit enjoyed by him. Another son, Henri, was a canon 
of Bourges and Dean of the cathedral of Limoges ; the 
two younger were mere lads, of whom Ravant, a sulky 
youth, was inclined to resent Archbishop Jean's airs of 
authority. Geoff roy, the youngest, the laughing favourite 
of all, was by future turns of Fortune's wheel to become 
treasurer to Louis XI, to end his days as a financial mag- 
nate in Paris, and to be buried in the chapel of the College 
des Bons Enfans, restored and endowed by his father. 

The day was closing in burning heat, the air was sultry 
in the large dark stone-floored room with its crimson 
hangings and heavy carved furniture. The faces of that 
group of young people were pale and shadowed with some 
haunting fear or distress hardly suited to a festival. 
There was storm in the air even now a distant growl 
announced clashing clouds, thunderbolts, hurricanes 

100 



A Patriot 

and neither Jacques Cceur nor his family could be uncon- 
scious of the tempest of hatred and envy that might any 
day break over his own head. 

To keep his ftte at Bourges he had made the long 
journey from Taillebourg in Southern Poitou, where King 
Charles VII was visiting the Comte de la Tremoille, and 
where the " vultures of the Court " were gathered together, 
waiting for the rich banker's spoils. It is true that the 
King had lately bestowed fresh favours on Jacques Cceur, 
so that he was full of confidence, assuring his friends that 
in spite of certain evil tongues his royal master was still 
his friend. Yet he could not choose but be aware of dark 
plots against him, absurd accusations of secret treason, 
dishonesty, unfair exactions, even a whispered tale more 
ridiculous and more terrible still, the tale that he had 
poisoned Dame Agnes Sorel, the King's favourite, whose 
affairs he had managed, and who had died at the birth of a 
child some months before. This wild story was trumped 
up, as all good men knew, to give jealous courtiers a strong 
occasion against Jacques Cceur and a chance of sharing 
his vast possessions. Thus they laid their snares for the 
man whose only crime was success earned by talent and 
honest work, and who walked among them regardless of 
mutterings of danger. But his wife and children were not 
so bold : they feared his ruin ; they felt that he and they 
were on the edge of a precipice. 

And here he was, a happy man at his favourite game, 
with a clear and proud mind as the deliverer of his country, 
dreading neither open nor secret foe, and bent on return- 
ing to Taillebourg that very night to carry on his master's 
business. They who loved him were resolved that he 
must not go. 

He had won his game. Looking across the chessboard 
with merry, satisfied eyes, he tries to console Dame Macee 

101 



Stories from French History 

for her defeat. She had played ill, her thoughts being 
distracted. 

' Thou shalt take thy revenge when these affairs at 
Court are finished. Nay, what sad looks ! Cheer thee ! 
All goes well." 

' Must I wait so long ? Do me this favour, beloved. 
Stay with us till the King sends to call you. Or listen- 
Jean says is there not some instant need of your presence 
in the South ? What of letters from Marseilles ? You 
would be safe there from your enemies." 

Her eyes are full of anxious prayer. 
1 Your enemies, dear husband ! " she murmurs. " Your 
enemies at Court ! " 

' What matter they, if the King is my friend ! As to 
Jean's timid counsels they may need me at Marseilles, but 
must not my master's affairs come first with me ? Arch- 
bishop, forsooth ! Has he no faith in the guardianship of 
God ? " 

With a laugh, Jacques Cceur rises from the table and 
turns to his children. 

Then a chorus of voices arises in remonstrance and eager 
argument. Jean, the Most Reverend, admonishes him 
tenderly ; Henri reasons with him seriously ; Ravant 
grumbles of the danger to them all ; Geoffrey tries to pre- 
vail by affectionate coaxing ; Perrette looks much that 
she dares not say, and her husband uods his agreement ; 
while Dame Macee's silent tears are eloquent ; they two 
have played their last game together, and she knows it 
well. Faithful servants, loudly sobbing, crowd now into 
the room, all praying against their good master's return 
to Taillebourg. 

Jacques Co2iir might have said with St Paul the Apostle : 
' AYhat mean ye to weep and to break my heart ? " for 
like him he would listen to no entreaties of love, no counsels 
102 



A Patriot 

of fear and delay. That night, when a storm of thunder 
and rain had swept over Berry and cooled the air, he left 
his family and rode south-westward to rejoin his un- 
grateful King. He had kissed them all and had received 
a solemn blessing from his son. They of his household 
and the people of Bourges watched his little troop 
away under a red moon which would light the forest 
roads. So he passed through the summer night into the 
hands of his enemies, and never saw his beautiful home 
again. 

Jacques Cceur was arrested at Taillebourg in the King's 
name and tried for the murder of Agnes Sorel. In spite of 
his accusers he was proved innocent, and the charge was 
withdrawn for very shame : but this did not mean escape 
and freedom. All those other imaginary crimes were 
piled up against him : he was a thief, a usurer, a juggler 
with the finances of the country, a friend of the King's 
enemies. He had counterfeited the King's seal, he had 
traitorously sold arms to the Saracens. Another long and 
most iniquitous trial ended in his conviction on all these 
points. He was refused any defence, his witnesses were 
not heard, for this time the greedy vultures had it all their 
own way, while Charles VII, unworthy master of a faithful 
servant, looked on consenting. The Pope's intervention 
saved Jacques Cceur's life, but he was condemned to pay a 
gigantic fine to the State, all the rest of his possessions 
being confiscated and divided among his enemies. This 
meant the complete ruin of his family, who were one and 
all brought to abject poverty. As to his unhappy wife, 
the weight of sorrow and trouble was too heavy for her, 
and she died before the trial was ended. . 

Thus the patriot had his reward. 

After being flung from prison to prison in the West 
country he was sent by way of exile to the South and shut 

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Stories from French History 

up in a fortified convent at Beaucaire, the little city which 
looks across the Rhone to Tarascon in Provence. Here he 
was in a land of romance, haunted by saints and dragons, 
pirates and crusaders : the scene of the lovely old story of 
Aucassin and Nicolette, world-known since the twelfth 
century for the great July fair, to which came traders from 
all Europe and the East. No doubt Jacques Cceur the 
merchant was a familiar figure there. 

And he had powerful friends beyond the Rhone. Pro- 
vence was not yet part of the French kingdom. The old 
Roman province still kept its independence under the 
famous Rene, titular King of Naples, Sicily, and Jerusalem, 
Duke of Lorraine and Anjou, father of Margaret, the un- 
lucky Queen of England. In Anjou Rene was the French 
King's vassal : as Count of Provence he ruled in his own 
right. The charming prince, whose mother, Yolande, 
Duchess of Anjou, had befriended Jeanne d'Arc in the 
early days of her mission, and who had himself fought for 
France beside the Maid, knew how to value the generous 
patriotism of Jacques Cceur. 

But the prisoner had a more intimate claim on Rene's 
interest and protection. One of his nieces had married a 
certain Jean de Villages, a native of Berry, an adventurous 
spirit like himself, whom in happier days he had estab- 
lished as his agent at Marseilles. This man had been 
appointed admiral of Rene's little fleet, and the King 
delighted in him and the strange curiosities he was con- 
stantly bringing home from the East. At the time of 
Jacques Cceur's disgrace his enemies induced Charles VII 
to demand from Rene the surrender of Jean de Villages 
as a confederate in his uncle's pretended treasons. Rene 
declined, and Jean de Villages remained at Marseilles. 
And the story goes that he slipped across to Beaucaire, 
rescued Jacques Cceur from his convent, and brought him 
104 



A Patriot 

safely into Provence, where the French king's agents had 
no right to touch him. 

He was too near the frontier, however, to be safe from 
the men who hated him and had shared his wealth. He 
passed on into exile in Italy ; and we may see him a free 
man in the sunshine of the South, sailing on the blue 
sea he loved as ' Captain-general against the Infidels,' 
commanding the Pope's galleys in an expedition to defend 
the Greek islands against an attack by the Turks, who had 
lately taken Constantinople. On one of these islands, in 
November 1456, a sudden sickness seized him and he died. 
Thus ended a life as romantic as any in French history. 

France made some late amends to the valiant man whose 
services she had so ill repaid. A small portion of his goods 
was restored to his family, and the careers of his sons in 
Church and State were no longer hindered. But Charles 
VII, -the selfish and lethargic, did little : it was left for 
Louis XI to pay just honour to the name of Jacques Coeur 
and to crush the men who had been his enemies. 



105 



CHAPTER XI 
THE DAWN OF MODERN FRANCE 



hare their Aprils when (he world seems to flower with a 
fortunate novelty. MARY DCCLAUX 

The Frame of Louis XII is the justification of Louis XI. 

STANLEY LEATHES 

AT the end of the Middle Ages and of the Hundred 
Years War France was passing gradually from an 
old world into a new. Almost she could call her 
soil her own. The labourers worked undisturbed; the 
nobles were lazy like the King, and some of them cared 
more for heaping up riches, often at the expense of the 
bourgeoisie, than for their ancient trade of fighting, or even 
for the splendid displays, the tournaments and masquer- 
ades, which added joy to life in earlier feudal times. The 
towns were free to trade and prosper in their own way. 
For Charles VII, with all his defects, ruled France wisely 
in these days of her slow recovery. His taxes were not 
too oppressive, and his standing army was an improve- 
ment on the feudal bands, the troops of fierce mer- 
cenaries, even the armed companies of the cities, all of 
whom were wont to fight for their own advantage, 
robbing, torturing, killing the people they should have 
defended. 

The reforms of Charles VII led the way for those of 
Louis XI, the son he so heartily detested, the clever, mean- 
minded, cold-hearted personage whom historians have 
counted with Henry VII of England and Ferdinand the 
Catholic of Spain as one of the 'three wise kings' of the 
106 



The Dawn of Modern France 

time : the man who made France what she had never 
before been, a really united and centrally governed 
country. Louis XI was the best-hated man in his 
dominions ; but under him, in those early years of the 
French Renaissance, France advanced so fast and so far as 
to become a great European Power. Louis XI "lifted 
France into the front rank of nations." How was it 
done ? By a long struggle with the strong feudal mag- 
nates who remained, especially with Duke Charles the 
Bold of Burgundy their quarrel is a history in itself 
and by a wise administration that took account of every 
interest in the kingdom. 

So much for the general state of things. One would 
like to look more closely at the provinces and cities over 
which this King reigned, and at the daily life of his subjects 
in hovel or castle, by country roads or city streets. Most 
interesting of all is Paris at this time : the medieval city 
on which the Renaissance was beginning to dawn, yet 
which, in the shadows of its irregular gabled streets, 
the decay of its old religious buildings and much 
that they signified, the spirit of strangeness and 
melancholy mingled with a kind of grotesque mockery 
that seems to have brooded over its people, was still 
held by the dying Gothic past that had once given it 
life. 

In these years, since the death of Charles VI and the 
English occupation, Paris had ceased to be the favourite 
home of the kings. Necessity had taught Charles VII 
the charm of the West country, and Louis XI soon began 
to avoid the old city, still haunted by the spectres of the 
Hundred Years War. For many years, with terrible 
regularity, the winter meant starvation and the summer 
epidemic disease. Forty thousand died of the plague in 
the year 1450. Wolves appeared again in the streets, and 

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Stories from French History 

not always on winter nights, but in the day-time, and in 
the month of September. 

Still, the new laws of Charles VII and Louis XI did 
much for Paris ; ruined quarters were rebuilt, markets 
were enlarged, and under the hundred swinging signs in 
various colours that darkened the narrow and muddy 
streets, criers with their asses and little carts pushed 
noisily along, sellers of wine, milk, cheese, vegetables, 
fruit, fish, pies, gingerbread ; wood and old iron ; all 
mixed up with chimney-sweeps, mountebanks, beggars, 
and thieves ; fat citizens, soldiers, priests ; blind men 
from the Hospital of the Quinze-Vingts. 

This ancient charity, founded by St Louis, was favoured 
and supported, with many others, by Louis XI for the 
good of his own soul. The abode of the three hundred 
blind brethren was a little city within the city : a walled 
enclosure surrounding a church, an orchard, and large 
cloistered courtyards, shaded by rows of tall elms. The 
buildings, which included mills, ovens, kitchens, granaries, 
even a prison, stood between the two city walls, that of 
Philippe-Auguste and the newer one of Charles V, between 
the gates known as first and second of Saint-Honore, thus 
near the Louvre and in the very centre of Paris. The 
church, full of relics and sacred images, famous for its 
music, was a popular place of pilgrimage. The com- 
munity of the Quinze-Vingts had many privileges, and for 
centuries there was no more familiar sight in the streets 
than the blind men in their brown gowns stamped with 
the fleur-de-lys, carrying sacks and begging from house to 
house and of the passers-by. Sometimes they were led by 
a man or woman who could see, but they had a marvellous 
power of finding their way : indeed, the story goes that 
in the thick river-fogs which often enveloped old Paris 
no better guide could be found than a blind man. As 
108 



The Dawn of Modern France 

beggars they feared no refusal : their cry " Aux Quinze- 
Vingts, pain Dieu ! ' was never raised in vain ; they 
begged with authority. 

They had their own opportunities for charity. The 
hospital had the right of sanctuary, often enough needed 
in the Paris of Francois Villon. And to those criminals 
who had not succeeded in escaping the officers of justice, 
but were led through the streets on their way to be hanged, 
burned, boiled alive in the Horse-market, or the Pig- 
market, or the Place de Greve, or farther away at the 
awful gibbet of Montfaucon, where men hung in rows on 
cross-beams till their bones dropped asunder to those 
miserable victims, pauvres patients, as the old chroniclers 
call them, the Quinze-Vingts had a right to give wine and 
bread with a blessing as they passed the gateway of the 
hospital. During this solemn ceremony, we are told, 
there was silence in the street, and the staring crowd even 
dropped upon its knees. 

Another centre of interest for fifteenth-century Parisians 
was the Cemetery of the Holy Innocents. 

The large old burial-place, largest and oldest of Paris, 
was surrounded by cloistered walks crowded with monu- 
ments, and on its walls was painted that extraordinary 
Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death, reproduced on the 
bridge at Lucerne and elsewhere, in which the spirit of 
the later Middle Ages found its tragic and grotesque ex- 
pression. It was destroyed in the reign of Louis XIV, 
when all such medieval curiosities were out of fashion. 
But the lower class of Louis XI's Parisians haunted the 
Innocents by day and night : the more the cloisters 
mouldered into age, the greater the number of poor 
creatures who found shelter and company there. Bones 
buried under the black earth and the rank grass ; bones 
stacked in the vaulted roofs : it was a place where death 

109 



Stories from French History 

and life met very strangely. The Market of the Innocents, 
close by, with its crowds and noise, was sometimes a scene 
of terrible excitement, as when the Due de Nemours, once 
Governor of Paris, and rebel against Louis XI, was dragged 
there in an iron cage from the Bastille to be beheaded in 
the sight of all. The old morsel of historical gossip which 
places the children of Nemours beneath the scaffold that 
their father's blood might drip upon their heads and white 
garments is probably untrue : even the ' frightfulness ' of 
Louis XI may have paused here. 

After all, there was a certain merriment in the life of 
that old Paris, with all its beggary and romantic despera- 
tion. When the King was there, not living at the Louvre, 
now a State prison, nor at the Hotel Saint- Paul, with its 
tragic memories, but at the Hotel des Tournelles, another 
fairy palace of turrets and gardens, many fine spectacles 
and entertainments were held in the city. The King 
spent little money ; but he encouraged the University and 
the trade-guilds to hold festivals and processions with their 
banners for the amusement of his guest the King of 
Portugal or some magnate among the few he desired to 
honour. His mean figure and hawk-like face, his old hat 
garnished with leaden images of saints, presided over the 
few tournaments still held by his rich nobles and the sing- 
ing dances that followed them. He sat religiously in the 
square of Notre-Dame to watch the theatrical perform- 
ances of the Confrerie de la Passion. The common people 
indeed had no reason to fear or to hate Louis XI : it was 
the taller plants of the kingdom that his relentless scythe 
mowed down. 

On clear summer days, when the broad Seine rippled 
merrily through the red-roofed, towered city, and trees 
were green, and bare-legged haymakers worked and sang 
in the meadows under the walls, and windmills tossed their 
110 



. 




The Place de Greve in the Fifteenth Century 

From a drawing by F. Hoffbauer in " Les Rives de la Seine a travers les Ages' 

(Paris, H. Laurens) 



no 



The Dawn of Modern France 

wide wings on the hills round about, Paris might some- 
times forget her weariness and long distress in the joy of 
her age-long beauty. 

Two popular kings followed Louis XI. Charles VIII, 
ugly, gay, adventurous, and beloved whose young life 
and the elder Valois line ended together when his head 
struck a low archway in the castle of Amboise has been 
blamed by historians for his wild-goose chase after the 
crown of Naples, claimed by the French kings in succes- 
sion to King Rene and the Counts of Anjou. But this 
and later Italian wars, victorious or not, had great conse- 
quences for France : they let in the sunshine of the South 
and revealed wonders of art to a country where new 
thought and new love of beauty had already dawned. 

The lovely tomb in Tours Cathedral, a gem of the early 
Renaissance, on which small watchful angels still guard 
the effigies of two little children of Charles VIII and his 
wife Anne, Duchess of Brittany, has kept alive the 
memory of ' le bon petit Roy ' through centuries and 
revolutions. 

Then came Louis XII, ' the Father of his people.' He 
had learnt much in a hard school, the school of heirs- 
presumptive. He was the grandson of the murdered 
Louis, Duke of Orleans, the brother of the mad King. 
His father was Charles, Duke of Orleans the poet, a 
prisoner in England for many years after Agincourt. 
Louis XI kept the young Duke in strict subjection and 
married him to his daughter Jeanne, a plain little princess 
with a noble and saintly soul. Under Charles VIII he was 
first a rebel, then a State prisoner in the great tower of 
Bourges, then, through the King's generosity, a com- 
mander of armies. He succeeded his cousin without 
question on the throne of France. 

Louis XII was a just king, a successful ruler, a good- 
Ill 



Stones from French History 

humoured and rather magnanimous personage, who for- 
gave his political enemies with the remark that it would 
ill become the King of France to revenge the quarrels of 
the Duke of Orleans. His Italian campaigns pleased the 
fighting spirit of France, so long an invaded and suffering 
country. He claimed the city and province of Milan from 
the reigning Sforza in right of his grandmother, Valentina 
Visconti, Duchess of Orleans, and the history of the time 
gives us few more striking pictures than that of the con- 
quered Lodovico Sforza, il Moro, riding into France on 
a mule, clothed in black, his white hair streaming, cold 
and proud of aspect as he passed on to his cruel fate. 
Louis XII showed little magnanimity here. The captive 
lingered through his last ten years in one of those dungeons 
under the Chateau of Loches that Louis XI had prepared 
for his own personal enemies ; on its walls il Moro's 
inscriptions and drawings are still to be seen. 

The territory of France was now complete. From the 
Channel to the Mediterranean Sea, from the Meuse to the 
Pyrenees, she was at last one country. Calais alone was 
still held by the English. In one way or another, by will, 
by treaty, by deaths and law-suits, chiefly in the time of 
Louis XI, the kings of France had become masters of 
Normandy, Burgundy, Picardy, Artois, Maine, Anjou, Pro- 
vence, Guienne. One independent feudal state remained. 
Brittany, under its spirited Duchess Anne, kept its free- 
dom and self-government even after her marriage with 
Charles VIII ; and Louis XII saw but one way of securing 
the fine old duchy for France : he must marry his cousin's 
widow. It was no hardship, for he admired her greatly ; 
and she, it seems, was willing enough to be once more 
Queen of France. There was only one obstacle : Louis 
had already a wife. But these were matters of policy, 
easily to be arranged by kings and popes. Caesar Borgia, 
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The Dawn of Modern France 

the nephew of Alexander VI, received the French duchy 
of Valentinois, and the little childless Queen Jeanne, 
divorced from her husband, retired to a life of religious 
peace in a convent she had founded at Bourges. 

In later years, Queen Anne having died without a son 
to succeed to France and Brittany, Louis XII married his 
daughter Claude to his splendid young cousin Francois, 
Comte d'Angouleme, head of yet another branch of the 
Valois line his grandfather being a younger brother of the 
poet Duke of Orleans who was to become King of France 
at the moment when she in her brilliant Renaissance 
expected her princes to strike men's imagination. 

But the ' Father of his people,' homely, of simple tastes, 
and old for his years, had no illusions with regard to the 
future Franois I. He was tired of young people. His 
third wife, Mary Tudor, had altered his dinner-hour ; 
feasts and late hours were killing him, and he took a dark 
view of the prospects of the great nation for which he had 
worked hard and done his best. 

"We have laboured in vain," he said on his death-bed 
to a friend. " Ce gros gargon gdtera tout ! ' 



H 113 



CHAPTER XII 
A GREAT CAPTAIN 

Nous qni sommes 
De par Dieu 
Cfentilahommes 

De haut lieu, 
Ilfautfaire 
Bruit ,sr terre 
Et la guerre. 
X'f*t qu'unjeu. 

VICTOR HUGO 

Le litre de chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, titre plus beau 
que tons les noms des seigneurs du monde. . . . C'est bien le gentt! 
seigneur de Hayard, le gaillard homme d'armes, le hardi et adroit 
chevalier, le vertueux et triomphant capitaine. 

ARTHUR CHUQUET 

THE wars of the Valois cousins with Italy and 
the German Empire including Spain under the 
Emperor Charles V lasted with intervals for 
many years. They were necessary to the existence of 
France and were welcome to the restless spirit of the age. 
The old fighting families, crushed into dull inaction by 
Louis XI, gladly followed Charles VIII, Louis XII, and 
Francois I on those adventurous campaigns. 

There was a great rebirth of romance : the chivalric 
ideas of the early Middle Ages returned to life. The 
crusading dreams of Charles VIII would have carried him 
to Constantinople and Jerusalem. In the first brilliant 
years of Fran?ois I, " chivalric tales, chivalric dress, 
chivalric language became the rage at Court," Much of 
all this was external and artificial: the true spirit of 
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A Great Captain 

knighthood, the spirit of Louis IX the soldier-saint, was 
very rare in the years of the Renaissance and the armies 
of the Valois. Yet it was not altogether absent. For 
Pierre Terrail, Seigneur de Bayard, fought in these armies 
through all his noble life, the life of a " knight without 
fear and without reproach." 

He was born in the year 1476 at the Chateau de Bayard, 
among the mountains and forests of Dauphine ; its ruins 
still command the valley of the Isere. He came of an old 
and warlike family ; but it was his uncle, the Bishop of 
Grenoble, who fetched him from home, an eager boy of 
fourteen, mounted him on a pony, his mother providing 
him with a small purse of money, a change of linen, and 
much good counsel, and carried him off to be page to the 
Duke of Savoy. Riding out thus into the world, young 
Bayard " deemed himself in Paradise." He is described 
as small of stature but upright, with dark eyes and a mild 
countenance, his hair cut straight across his forehead and 
falling behind his ears. Some say that he never grew a 
beard, but a portrait by Giorgione at Genoa seems to con- 
tradict this. He was, by the universal testimony of his 
time, the most manly of men, the most daring of fighters, 
a splendid horseman, an unrivalled leader, a model of 
magnanimity. He was a perfect warrior, not only as le 
preux et le passe-preux among his peers, but in the sense 
of understanding war. No one was more resourceful 
in a difficult place or more popular with the armies ; 
his high spirit and gay good-humour never failed. 
With all this Bayard was no courtier, and his modest 
and disinterested temper was little fitted to make its 
way in a pushing, selfish world. This may explain 
the strange fact that le bon chevalier, the finest soldier 
of his time, ' worth an army in himself," never com- 
manded an army, and after fighting through three 

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Stories from French History 

reigns was still no more than captain of a hundred 
lances. 

He passed into the service of Charles VIII and marched 
with him into Italy. At the age of nineteen he captured 
an enemy standard in the battle of Fornovo. This was one 
of the first of a series of brave deeds, merveilles d'at'mes, such 
as his solitary defence of the bridge of Garigliano against 
two hundred Spaniards. And his humanity equalled his 
courage. When the ' Adventurers ' under his command 
in Louis XII's second Italian campaign had shut up a 
number of enemies in a barn, piled straw against the doors, 
and set fire to it, so that all perished miserably, he hanged 
those men in a row as an example to the rest of the army. 

It was not always victory. Twice at least Bayard was 
taken prisoner ; before Milan by Lodovico Sforza, who 
released him with honour ; and by the English and 
Imperialists at Guinegate, after the ' Battle of the Spurs,' 
where he led the small band of French who declined to fly. 
And some victories were almost too dearly bought by the 
deaths of many a noble commander and comrade in arms. 
Such a victory was that before Ravenna in 1512, and such 
a loss was that of Gaston de Foix, Due de Nemours, nephew 
of Louis XII, one of the most heroic young soldiers in 
history, who had been given the command of the army of 
Italy at twenty- two. When his genius and courage had 
sent the enemy flying, he pursued with a small band of 
men and was fatally wounded. The cry of " Gaston est 
mort ! " rang through the victorious French ranks, and the 
silence that followed was only broken by " the sound of 
strong men sobbing and weeping." Above all, the bon 
chevalier Bayard grieved that in the fury of his own pur- 
suit he had not been able to avenge the death of Gaston or 
to die with him. 

One fancies that Jacques de Chabannes, Seigneur de La 
116 



A Great Captain 

Palice and Marshal of France, who succeeded to the com- 
mand, certainly an older and more cautious gentleman, 
can hardly have inspired such loyalty. It is not always 
unfair to judge by contemporary soldier-songs, and this 
famous one has a somewhat disrespectful flavour : 

Monsieur de La Palice est niort, 

Mort devant Pavie. 
Un quart d'heure avant sa inort 

II dtoit encore en vie . . . etc. etc. 

It was earlier in this campaign that Bayard, wounded, 
was nursed back to health in the house of a lady at Brescia. 
The city had suffered terribly from the French assault, 
but this house was spared because of his presence there. 
Before he left his hostess begged him to accept a large sum 
of money as her thank-offering for being saved from pillage. 
Bayard was then and always a poor man, but he knew it 
to be the dowry of her two daughters that the lady offered 
him, and he refused the money, asking that it might be 
divided between them. There were many chevaliers sans 
peur in the French army of his day ; but few, probably, 
who would thus have proved themselves sans reproche. 

Franois I, the new young King of France, began his 
reign with another Italian campaign, one of the most 
picturesque ever fought. All the youth of France was in 
that army of dashing spirits which flung itself in five days 
by chamois-tracks over the guarded Alps into Northern 
Italy. Bayard inspired and directed this wonderful 
crossing. Seventy- two cannons were dragged by men 
over the pathless rocks where oxen and mules could find 
no footing. In the wars of those days guns that fired big 
bullets of lead or iron were becoming a necessity, though 
archers, cross-bowmen, pikemen, and cavalry with swords 
and lances still formed the chief strength of an army. 

117 



Stories from French History 

Before the Italian troops, reinforced by a great body of 
Swiss mercenaries, were even aware of the French advance, 
Bayard and a few other daring horsemen had swooped 
from the mountains and surprised Prospero Colonna, the 
Roman general commanding the Duke of Milan's forces, 
with seven hundred of his knights at Villafranca. Then 
followed the famous battle of Marignano, fought in the 
late summer heat in the meadows on the road to Milan. 
Many thousand Swiss poured out of the city at the bellow- 
ing summons of their great mountain horns and fell 
furiously on the French men-at-arms and artillery. The 
more the Swiss pikemen were mowed down, the more 
obstinately they pushed forward ; it was fearful hand-to- 
hand fighting, " a battle of giants," old writers say. Be- 
ginning in the afternoon, it lasted till the setting of the 
moon and was renewed at dawn. King Frangois took no 
care for his own safety : he and his Scottish guard, twenty- 
five young men in bright steel armour with plumes and 
scarves of gorgeous colours, fought in the thickest of the 
fray. At night he remained on horseback till sleep over- 
came him, and then lay down for an hour on a gun-carriage, 
a few yards from the enemy's front line. As to the 
Chevalier Bayard, darkness overtook him among the ranks 
of the Swiss, his own fearlessness and the confusion of 
battle having carried him too far into the melee. Being 
as nimble and clever as he was brave, he dropped on his 
knees and crawled back to his company. 

Next day, the victory being won, the Swiss flying back 
to their mountains, Milan and her Sforza prince once more 
at a French king's mercy, Francois I sent for the Chevalier 
Bayard and asked knighthood from him, thus conferring 
great honour on his faithful captain in the presence of 
hundreds of lords and knights of higher degree. Bayard 
kissed the sword that had touched hi* King's shoulder. 
118 




Bayard working on the Fortifications of Mezieres 
M. Meredith Williams 



Stories from French History 

' Verily, my good sword," said he, " thou art a 
treasured relic from this day. I will carry thee in battle 
no more, save against the Infidel." 

One of Bayard's chief titles to fame was his defence 
of the town of Mezieres when France was invaded by 
the Imperialists in the summer of 1521. He had a small 
garrison under him, and these men were not of the best, 
being, we are told, neither brave nor experienced ; some 
of them ran away even before the place was besieged. 
But on the other hand he had a number of very gallant 
gentlemen, friends, comrades, and cousins of his own, who 
were only too eager to fight for France in his company. 
Bayard wrote to the King that he hoped to defend Mezieres 
as a gentleman should, and to hold out as long as life and 
honour would permit. In a most practical way he pre- 
pared the town for the siege, storing provisions and giving 
out arrears of pay. His biographers tell us how he and 
his friends worked with the masons, carpenters, and 
labourers at strengthening the weak fortifications, digging 
earthworks, and carrying great stones, besides building 
high platforms to spy out the enemy, preparing cauldrons 
of oil and pitch to cast on his head, iron hooks to lay hold 
on him, traps in ditches to snare him. 

The town endured a month's bombardment from the 
army of Charles V. We are told that in this siege bombs 
were used for the first tune ; round bullets that burst and 
scattered bits of iron : such artillery, such cannons and 
culverins, had never yet been seen. But as fast as the 
towers were battered down, Bayard and his brave men 
built them up again. And he did not scruple to use 
stratagem, sending out a letter which was intercepted, as 
he meant it to be, bearing the news of large expected rein- 
forcements. The German commanders decided that the 
siege of Mezieres was hopeless : they withdrew their forces, 
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A Great Captain 



and North-eastern France was saved for once from 
devastation. The collar of the Order of St Michael was 
Bayard's chief recompense. 

The good knight's career ended as he would have wished, 
on the battle-field : not in the moment of victory, but 
this was no fault of his. In the spring of 1524 the French 
army, under a foolish and incapable general, was retreating 
before the Imperialists in Northern Italy, one of their chiefs 
being the famous or infamous Constable Charles de Bour- 
bon, traitor to his country. Bayard, in command of the 
French rear-guard, held back the enemy till he was dis- 
abled by a mortal wound. His men laid him down under 
a tree near Romagnano on the Sesia, with his face to the 
advancing foe. " I will not begin to turn my back upon 
them now," he said. He ordered his men to rejoin the 
army, and lay there alone, waiting for death, his eyes 
fixed on the cross-hilt of his sword. 

Charles de Bourbon, riding by in pursuit of the French, 
drew rein when he saw the dying hero and spoke a few 
generous words of regret and pity. 

" I am not to be pitied, my lord," Bayard answered him, 
"for I die an honest man. The pity is for yourself, you 
whom I behold bearing arms against your King, your 
country, and your oath." 



121 



CHAPTER XIII 
A KING OF THE RENAISSANCE 

La Loire est une reine, et les rois I'ont aimee : 
Xttr H68 cheveux cVazur, Us ont pose,jaloux, 
Des chateaux ciselea, ainsi que des bijoux ; 
Et de ces grands joyaux sa couronne estformee. 

JULES LEMA!TBB 

II nefaut s' Manner, Chrestiens, si la nacelle 

Du bonpasteur Saint Pierre en ce monde chancelle. 

PIERRE DE RONSARD 

THE Court of Francois I was the most gorgeous, the 
most brilliant, the most elegant and artistic that 
France ever saw. The stiff splendour and majesty 
of that of Louis XIV a hundred and fifty years later was 
to make an even greater impression on men's minds ; but 
in the first half of the sixteenth century everything was 
new. The world was full of discoveries and inventions- 
printing by far the most wonderful and of bold adven- 
tures on land and sea. It seemed made afresh for this 
handsome and generous young King. His keen enjoy- 
ment of life, his love of art and learning, his splendid tastes, 
made him an incarnation of the French Renaissance in all 
its daring beauty and gaiety, its free and joyous romance, 
its " sunshine and storm." He had been educated, 
adored, and spoilt by two of the cleverest women of their 
time, his mother, Louise of Savoy, Comtesse d'Angouleme, 
and his sister, Marguerite, first Duchess of Alen9on, then 
Queen of Navarre, la Marguerite cles Marguerites. 

If Fran?ois was not always fortunate in his Avars with 
the Empire, and if he was both immoral and extravagant 

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A King of the Renaissance 

at home, France did not complain. She was proud of him, 
of the gallant show he made in Europe and among rival 
kings. And the nation was aware that the prophecy of 
Louis XII had not been fulfilled ; this " big boy " did not 
" spoil all." The greatness of France and her progress 
were safe in his hands. The royal authority was felt 
throughout the kingdom : by the Church, the nobles, the 
Parliament, the provincial Estates, the bourgeoisie, whom 
he trusted, and who loved him. Trade and industry 
prospered ; new towns were built ; colonizing was begun ; 
education advanced, and the Court was full of learned 
men often employed in affairs of State. Artists, French 
and foreign, found in Franfois I a distinguished patron. 

Every one knows the story of his friendship with 
Leonardo da Vinci, whom he invited to France, from 
whom he bought the famous portrait of ' La Gioconda ' 
(Mona Lisa) now in the Louvre, and who died at Amboise, 
if not actually in the arms of the young King, honoured 
and mourned by him. 

But it was the painters and the builders of France whom 
Franfois employed most largely, though Italians were 
called in to decorate his new palace of Fontainebleau, 
and we know from himself that Benvenuto Cellini, the 
marvellous goldsmith, was a ' man after his own heart.' 
It is to the genius and taste of the French rather than of 
the Italian Renaissance that the world owes the chateaux 
of the Loire country : those great houses, unmatched for 
beauty and homeliness, in which the sixteenth century 
lives again. Some of these were built, or altered from 
their old feudal gloom, under the direction of Fra^ois 
himself : he was his own architect and the builders worked 
after his fancy. And the chateaux built by rich private 
persons, such as Chenonceaux and Azay-le-Rideau, ' the 
flower of Touraine,' have the same air of attractive grace 

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Stories from French History 

and harmonious elegance : it was the atmosphere of the 
time. 

All this was in some sort a result of the Hundred Years 
War, which drove French royalty into the West. The 
rich, luxuriant beauty of Touraine, called even then ' the 
garden of France,' and the sweet wildness of Anjou, made 
that country the favourite home of Charles VII and his 
successors. Chinon, Loches, Tours, Amboise, Blois, were 
by turns the residence of the Court, and Franois I added 
to them his extraordinary Chambord, a hunting-lodge in 
the woods large enough to hold an army. On all these 
and more the royal devices are to be seen : the ermine of 
Anne of Brittany, the crowned porcupine of Louis XII, 
the crowned and flaming salamander of Fra^ois, the 
pierced swan of Claude, his queen. 

In the autumn of 1534 the Court was at Blois, resting 
there after weeks of wandering about France, hunting, 
dancing, feasting, visiting towns and castles, often camp- 
ing out in the woods and meadows, a small city of tents, a 
gigantic picnic by no means enjoyed by everybody who 
was forced to take part in it. The Court of France at 
these times was like an enormous gipsy encampment, and 
courtiers, ladies, foreign ambassadors, and artists who 
were not, like the King, romantic by temperament, found 
its discomforts hard to bear. It is certain that he. the 
most luxurious of princes, did not share them. If he 
possessed, as M. Louis Batiffol says, the wandering temper 
of his ancestors, the early Capet kings, he had not their 
hardy indifference to circumstances. The rustling shade 
of old mossy woodlands, the pines and purple heather, the 
green grass and rushes by slow, clear rivers and frog- 
haunted pools, the sunny slopes of the vineyards, gave him 
no love for freshness and simplicity. He lived in a village 
or a forest as in a city, with magnificence. When the 
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A King of the Renaissance 

whole Court accompanied him, it meant a train of at least 
twelve thousand baggage-horses as well as riding-horses, 
and mules to carry the silk-curtained litters. The King's 
own personal furniture and ornaments, chiefly of gold, his 
splendid suits of clothes, brocade, satin, velvet, precious 
furs, cloth of gold and silver, finest linen and lace, gorgeous 
jewellery, were the charge of a household of servants. 
And the lords and ladies of the Court Fra^ois was the 
first French king who insisted on the constant presence 
of ladies, saying that a Court without them was a garden 
without flowers were obliged to ruin themselves in 
imitation of him and in extravagant rivalry with each 
other. 

The Chateau de Blois, waiting on that autumn evening 
for the King's return from a day's hunting at Chambord, 
was indeed a beautiful royal abode. It was mostly new, 
rebuilt by the Renaissance kings on the site of an old 
feudal fortress. The sunset light streamed through its rich 
courts, and broad shadows lay on the white paving-stones. 
The wing of Louis XII glowed in colour of red and purple 
bricks below shining grey roofs and graceful chimneys : 
but in those days the sight deemed most admirable, in 
dazzling cream-white stone all carved and fretted, was the 
wing built by King Francois and Queen Claude, with the 
marvellous open-air staircase that wound upward round 
sculptured columns, past balustrades and balconies, to 
open on each storey of the vast palace building. To this 
day, when you enter the courtyard by the vaulted way 
under King Louis XII's statue, " the sixteenth century 
closes round you." 

In those days the Chateau de Blois was the centre of 
Renaissance Court life, the favourite home of the Valois, 
the chief scene of a period in history which was to grow 
steadily darker and more disastrous through the succeed- 

125 



Stones from French History 

ing reigns of the three grandsons of Francois I, under the 
fateful Italian influence of Catherine de Medicis and the 
heavy storm-clouds of religious war. These were already 
on the horizon, climbing, indeed, half-way up the sky: 
during the last seven years occasional Protestant uprisings 
had been put down with a cruel sternness that seemed un- 
natural in Franois I. Like his sister Marguerite, he had 
grown up liberal-minded and tolerant of free thought. 
But as the absolute king of a Catholic country he did not 
long endure speech or action that rebelled against the laws 
of the kingdom or the Church. Possibly a secret inclination 
to leniency made him the more severe. 

But the Chateau de Blois is at peace on this autumn 
evening. The King's favourite small greyhounds are play- 
ing in the court, gold collars round their delicate necks, in 
charge of a page in blue and silver, with curly hair and 
feathered cap. Near the chief entrance the guards go 
clanking up and down, their black jerkins slashed with 
white and orange-tawny and embroidered on the back 
with the royal salamander ; a red quilted helmet shadow- 
ing a fierce bearded face, a long halberd resting on the 
shoulder. Servants in gay liveries are slipping up and 
down the broad twisting staircase, flashing in and out of 
sight, busy with preparations for the Court banquet and 
ball. Here and there a light begins to glow in upper 
windows, where other servants, among heaped glories of 
Court costume, are waiting for the return of lords and 
ladies, princes and princesses, splashed and weary from 
hunting. 

The royal party has not arrived when a messenger from 
Paris flings himself from his tired horse at the gateway of 
the chateau. After being examined by the officer of the 
guard he is led to the presence of the King's chief secre- 
tary, the Sieur de Neuville, a grave personage, whose 

126 




on 

'3 

s 

<l> 
a o 

3 I 



H 






A King of the Renaissance 

descendants, by the way, were to serve the French 
monarchy faithfully down to the Revolution. 

The secretary bends bristling brows over the contents 
of the messenger's wallet while this young man watches 
him with curious, mocking eyes. One would say that 
he found satisfaction in what was to Neuville vexation or 
worse. 

" These placards, good heaven ! Dozens of these 
heretical placards posted up in Paris ! ' 

" Scores, my lord. They are everywhere, even in the 
Louvre." 

" Insolent blasphemers ! And these letters tell me of 
fresh sacrilege and image-breaking. Have not these rash 
folk had warning enough ? Do they ask for more punish- 
ments ? Or do they presume on the King's known 
clemency ? They may go too far, young man ; they may 
go too far. His Majesty's humour will not now tolerate 
attacks on our holy religion. There has been too much 
indulgence. What say the people of Paris ? ' 

" They are angry. They demand processions to expi- 
ate " the messenger shrugs his shoulders with a smile 
which escapes notice, luckily for him. Nicolas de Neuville 
is not in a mood to pardon flippancy. 

Dismissed, the messenger presently finds himself waiting 
in the courtyard for the return of the royal hunting party. 
He has orders to eat his supper with the grooms, and the 
time might well drag for a hungry youth, but not so with 
him. For he has a bold design in his head and a roll of 
Protestant placards hidden under his clothes. The son of 
a Paris tradesman from Artois, not yet suspected of heresy, 
and the godson of Louis de Berquin of that province, 
burnt for his opinions a few years since, Louis Paulin is one 
of the most hotly flaming young firebrands of the new 
Calvinist party. Never so happy as when his head is 

127 



Stories from French History 

actually in the lion's jaws, one day finds him nailing his 
placards on the gates of the Louvre and narrowly escaping 
the guard ; the next, volunteering to ride to Blois with 
letters from the Provost of Paris, denouncing the heretics 
and showing specimens of their work ; simply for the 
opportunity of spreading that work further. 

Strolling round the court in deepening shadows, this 
bold adventurer lays his plans for the coming night, and 
mingling with the soldiers, eyes and ears wide open and 
purse-strings loose, is able to judge his chances of getting 
clear away when the task is done. 

Dogs bark : there is a distant shouting in the street, and 
then, with a noise of talk and laughter, they come pouring 
through the archway, that gorgeous crew returning from 
Chambord. It is almost dark now : the rich colours, the 
trappings and gay jangling harness, are weirdly lit up by 
blazing torches. The King's long limbs are stretched in a 
litter ; he is wrapped in a great blue velvet mantle lined 
with white satin and bordered with sable fur ; the white 
ostrich feathers in his velvet hat nod over his cropped hair 
and long nose. The rest of the party are on horseback : 
even Queen Eleonore, the Austrian successor of Claude de 
France, and Princess Catherine of the Medici, wife of the 
King's second son. In those days, while Francois the 
Dauphin still lived, this young woman did not expect to 
be Queen of France ; but she was a personage at Court, 
brilliant and energetic, if not beautiful, and her father-in- 
law enjoyed her company. There was beauty enough and 
to spare in the train of ladies that followed Frangois ; and 
ruffling splendour enough and to spare among his gentle- 
men. Of a rarer growth in this society were such matters 
as ' judgment, mercy, and truth ' and other virtues one 
might name. 

The palace glows with light and throbs with the music 

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A King of the Renaissance 

of harps and viols while feet dance in stately measure. As 
midnight draws on and heads are heavy with sleep, about 
the time of the changing of the guard, no one takes heed 
to certain daring hammer-taps, nor to a slim figure that 
darts through a momentarily unguarded door. Louis 
Paulin the messenger has slipped away into the night, 
leaving defiance behind him. 

There was a great cry in the morning, when men woke 
in the Chateau de Blois to find these irreverent placards 
nailed up here and there in the courtyards and buildings, 
even on the chapel door itself ; placards attacking religious 
abuses in threatening, unmeasured language and calling 
violently for drastic reform. Rank rebellion against the 
State, as well as the Church : that was how the Protestant 
movement struck Nicolas de Neuville as he almost fear- 
fully conveyed this last news, with that of the evening, 
to Franois I. The young messenger's disappearance 
added a puzzling touch of mystery to the dark business, 
and might almost cast suspicion on those who had sent 
him from Paris. The affair began to loom like a 
conspiracy. 

" Le Roy prit feu," says a writer of the time, " et partit 
incontinent pour venir a Paris." 

The Court, with all its enormous train, set out once more 
to labour through muddy roads to the capital. Princes 
and princesses, courtiers and ladies ; one may believe 
that they bestowed hearty curses on the troublesome 
religionists whose zeal broke thus suddenly into the 
pleasant peace of Blois. The Louvre was not then a 
comfortable abode : the great central prison-keep had 
been pulled down, but the new palace with its saloons 
and entresols, its wide staircases and stately roofs, was 
hardly yet begun. 

At the Louvre, however, the fiery King took up his 
I 129 



Stones from French History 

abode and began a fierce crusade against heresy. There 
were many trials of those concerned in the affair of the 
placards, many cruel punishments and executions. In 
an interval of the torturing and burning, Francois made 
with his own mouth a long discourse on heresy to the 
assembled Parliament and University, all men listening 
with respect to his orthodox views and to the new ordin- 
ances he laid down for the checking of that deadly disease 
in his kingdom. 

Paris welcomed and approved his actions, for the Re- 
formers were never popular there. The people in their 
thousands knelt in the streets at the passing of a more 
magnificent religious procession than even the Middle 
Ages often saw, ordered by the King as an atonement to 
Heaven for the insulting language of the placards. 

Immense preparations were made. The streets were 
cleaned, un grand luxe ; the stinking mud of Paris was 
proverbial. The side streets were barricaded and guarded, 
the procession's route, chiefly the Rue Saint-Honore and 
the Rue Saint-Denis, being kept clear and hung with 
tapestries, a flaming torch at every house-door to light 
the way : it was mid-winter, and dark even at midday 
under the projecting gables and hanging forest of signs. 
In order to prevent ' confusion and tumult,' the University 
authorities were directed to keep all students under lock 
and key. 

The procession started from the Church of Saint- 
Germain 1'Auxerrois, the jewelled shrines of St Genevieve 
and St Marcel, a holy Bishop of Paris in the fifth century, 
having been escorted thither in the early morning by 
clergy and banners from all the churches in Paris. It was 
the first time in living memory that these shrines had 
crossed the bridge north of Notre-Dame. Queen Eleonore 
led the procession, dressed in black velvet and mounted on 
130 



A King of the Renaissance 

a white hackney draped in cloth of gold. The princesses 
her step-daughters followed her, in crimson satin em- 
broidered with gold. With them, says the old historian, 
were many princesses and ladies, gentlemen, pages, and 
guards. Then -strange contrast to this courtly splendour 
the blind Quinze-Vingts in their brown gowns, and the 
mendicant Orders, all carrying lighted candles ; the clergy 
of all the churches, the monks from all the abbeys, bear- 
ing the shrines of their patron saints : that of St 
Germain had never before been borne through the streets. 
The shrine of St Eloy, the famous counsellor of King Dago- 
bert, was carried by the guild of the goldsmiths, his own 
trade. The two great shrines of St Genevieve and St 
Marcel, each carried by eighteen men in white, were 
followed by the bare-footed monks of the Abbey of Sainte- 
Genevieve. Then came the Chapters of Notre-Dame and 
Saint-Germain 1'Auxerrois, the heads of the University, 
the King's Swiss Guard with their halberds ; and here was 
a fine burst of military music, drums and fifes, trumpets, 
cornets, and hautboys, while a thousand voices sang the 
hymn Pange Lingua. The choir of the Sainte-Chapelle 
preceded its precious relics, borne by bishops and followed 
by cardinals. The Host was borne by the Bishop of Paris 
under a canopy of purple velvet supported by the King's 
three sons and Charles de Bourbon, Due de Vendome, a 
prince of the blood royal. Behind the canopy walked 
King Franois, bare-headed, in black velvet, carrying a 
large candle of white wax ; then a number of nobles and 
high officers of the kingdom, the Parliament in red robes, 
the courts of justice and of finance ; the Provosts of Paris 
and of the Merchants ; the royal household and the officials 
of the city. 

Thus with loud chanting and pealing of bells, rich in 
jewels and colour, the procession wound its slow way 

131 



Stories from French History 

through the streets, returning over the bridge to a solemn 
service at Notre-Dame. No open sign of disloyalty to 
Church or King disturbed its triumphant progress. 

But the pale, defiant face of such a youth as Louis 
Paulin, the bookseller's son, lost in the crowd, peeping 
through the barricades, might have warned Authority in 
Church and State that neither by cruelties nor by cere- 

/ *s 

monies could it hinder the march of Time or stay the swiftly 
rising clouds of religious war. 



1 32 



CHAPTER XIV 

VALOIS AND BOURBON 

Din lour/temps les Merits des antiques prophcles, 
Les sonyex mena^ants, les hideuses cometes, 
Avoient assez predit que Van soixante et deux 
Rendroit de tons cot6s les Francois malheureux. 

PIERRE DE RONSARD 

Tout perissoit enfin, lorsque Bourbon parut. 

Jlais Henri s'avanqoit vers sa grandeur supreme 
Par des chemins cache's inconnus a lui-meme. 

F. M. AROUET DE VOLTAIRE 

ON a winter morning in the year 1553, when the long 
jagged line of the Pyrenees glittered with snow, a 
prince was born in the high tapestried room of the 
castle of Pau. 

Through his father, Antoine de Bourbon, Due de Ven- 
dome, he was tenth in direct descent from St Louis. His 
mother, Jeanne d'Albret, was heiress to the kingdom of 
Navarre ; a very small kingdom since Ferdinand the 
Catholic of Spain had possessed himself of all its territory 
south of the Pyrenees, but still free and proud, with an 
independent history of seven hundred years. 

Its king, Henri II of the House of Albret, ruler of Lower 
Navarre and of Beam, and likely enough to be deprived 
even of these by his other great neighbour France, had 
been in his youth a splendid cavalier, sharing with Fran- 
ois I in many adventures of war and peace. Marguerite, 
Duchesse d'Alencon, the King's widowed sister, fell in love 
with Henri d'Albret and married him, though eleven years 

133 



Stories from French History 

younger than herself. Their Court in Beam was a centre 
of cultivation and tolerance. There many Reformers, 
even Calvin himself, found refuge from the dangers that 
beset them in Catholic France. Not that Marguerite and 
her husband accepted the severities of Calvinism. She 
was a free-thinker, a daughter of the Renaissance, a 
kindred spirit of its great writers, and like them, outwardly 
conforming to the Church. She was approved neither by 
Catholic bishop nor Protestant pastor, but bestowed her 
humorous charm and her kindness equally on both. She 
died in 1549, leaving a world the duller for her loss. 

As to Henri d'Albret, he was a native of the South, and 
from earliest times new opinions and new learning had 
been welcome there. As years advanced he became a 
stricter Catholic, partly perhaps from policy : a King of 
Navarre quarrelled with a King of France at his peri], and 
Henri II of France was a gloomy prince, a more bigoted 
persecutor than Franois I had been. 

These were the grandparents of the child who opened 
his eyes at Pau on that winter morning. The story goes 
that his mother sang when he was bom : her father, King 
Henri, had offered her as a reward a gold chain long enough 
to twist twenty-five times round her neck and a gold box 
containing his last will. So the first sound the baby heard 
was an old song of Beam. King Henri handed the gifts 
to his daughter, saying'. "Those arc yours and this is 
mine," and carried off the child, wrapped in his furry robe, 
to present him to the Court. But first he rubbed the little 
lips with garlic, in Bearnais fashion, and made the baby 
swallow a drop of red wine from a gold cup, " to make him 
strong and vigorous " : a treatment which certainly 
justified itself. 

The little prince was a treasure worth preserving. Two 
children of Antoinc and Jeanne, grandsons of Henri and 



Valois and Bourbon 

Marguerite, had died in infancy, victims of the ignorance 
and carelessness of the time one stifled in his cradle, one 
dropped between his nurse and a courtier, who were play- 
ing at ball with him fun for them, crying ' Catch,' but 
death to the poor baby. It was not the mother's fault : 
a wilful, high-spirited girl, very much in love with her 
husband, she was moving constantly between Court and 
camp, and no one in that selfish Valois world would expect 
a princess to give much thought to her nursery. It was 
her father, furious at these losses, resolving that another 
child should have a better chance of life, who had 
summoned Jeanne home to Beam in the autumn of 
1553. In short dark days and stormy weather she 
travelled from north to south, from Compiegne to Pau, 
a journey of three weeks, in order to arrive at King 
Henri's castle before the future Henri Quatre of France 
was born. 

At the time King Henri II de Valois, with four young 
sons, was reigning in France, and only wise men foresaw 
the great storm of civil war in which that degenerate 
House was to go down. 

" This is mine," said the grandfather, and acted on his 
words. 

He took the child from his tortoise-shell cradle still to 
be seen. and sent him away to a castle among the wild 
wooded hills between Pau and Lourdes, near the bank of 
a swift gave or stream that had its source in the high 
Pyrenees. The ruined ramparts of Coarraze still remain. 
In a cottage under their shelter lived the faithful nurse 
Jeanne Fourchade and her husband, under whose care, 
supervised by that of the King's cousin, the Baronne de 
Miossens, young Henri lived till he was four or five years 
old : not treated as a prince, not richly dressed or loaded 
with toys, but clothed and fed like the little peasants 

135 



Stories from French History 

around him and scrambling barefoot with them among the 
rocks and the pine-trees. 

His grandfather's death changed all that. Antoine de 
Bourbon, the new King of Navarre, at once found himself 
struggling with the King of France to keep not only his 
governments of Languedoc and Guienne but his wife's 
provinces of Navarre and Beam. By diplomatic weapons, 
an angry protest from the Estates of Navarre and a veiled 
threat of calling France's enemy, Spain, to the rescue, 
Antoine and Jeanne preserved their little country's inde- 
pendence. But in order to ensure for Jeanne and her son 
the protecting favour of her royal cousin of France, the 
King and Queen of Navarre appeared in Paris and 
presented Prince Henri, now five years old. at King 
Henri II's Court. 

There is a pretty portrait of the child, painted at about 
the time when he first set foot in the Louvre : handsome 
and curly-headed, dressed in tight jerkin and small ruff, his 
dark eyes looking out with bright interest into a new world. 
Here were splendours he had never seen in Beam ; here 
were boys and girls, cousins older and younger than him- 
self, ready to play with him ; here was a fat, olive-skinned, 
laughing lady, the Queen of France, whose hand he was 
told to kiss, and who kissed him with an ugly mouth. He 
did not like her : he preferred King Henri, handsome but 
grim, who patted his head and asked him if he would be 
his son. 

' That is my father," said the little Henri, in his dialect 
of Beam, pointing to King Antoine. 

' Well then, will you be my son-in-law ? ' 

" Oni bien ! " 

And a darling dark-haired girl of six years old, Princess 
Marguerite, la Reinc Mar got of days to come, was led for- 
ward to kiss him before the laughing Court. 
136 



Valois and Bourbon 

Weddings were in the air. Frangois the Dauphin was 
married in this same year to the lovely Queen of Scotland, 
Mary Stuart, whose uncles of the House of Guise thus 
became all-powerful at Court : an insufferable state of 
things to the Bourbon princes and a blow to the cause 
of Reform. 

The King and Queen of Navarre returned to Beam with 
their two children their daughter Catherine was born 
during this visit to Paris and it was not till after the death 
of Henri II and of his short-lived successor, Frai^ois II, 
that Queen Jeanne and her little Henri travelled north 
again. In the meanwhile King Antoine had joined his 
brother the Prince de Conde and a number of Huguenot 
gentlemen in a conspiracy to remove the young King from 
the influence of the Guises. The plot failed and was 
frightfully avenged by a series of terrible executions at 
Amboise. Impolitic as well as cruel, these deaths and the 
persecutions which followed them only served to spread 
the new opinions and to horrify all humane and generous 
minds. Even the Queen-mother, Catherine de Medicis, 
cynically clever and indifferent to questions of religion or 
humanity, was now in favour of toleration. " These dis- 
turbances," she said, " are more political than religious." 
Personally, at this time, she would have done much to 
conciliate the reforming faction. As soon as the death of 
Fran9ois II made her Regent of the kingdom Protestants 
\vere allowed to hold their faith and even to worship un- 
molested, as long as they forbore to assemble in public, to 
raise armies, or to trouble their neighbours' religion. It 
was an experiment in gentleness : the penalty of death 
and other severities having for thirty years failed to crush 
Reform. 

By way of further conciliation, Queen Catherine called 
the King of Navarre to rule with her as Lieutenant-General 

137 



Stories from French History 



j 



of the kingdom. Antoinc, pleased and triumphant, sent 
for his wife and son to share in his new dignity. 

AYith a heavy heart Queen Jeanne left her mountains 
and travelled northward. She hated the luxurious, de- 
generate Court, the centre of evil talk and immoral living, 
and justly feared its influence on her husband. She dis- 
trusted the Italian Queen-mother, the crafty politician, 
unscrupulous and greedy of power, whose Bible was The 
Prince of Macliiavelli. Jeanne's own religion, as the 
years advanced, had become more austerely Calvinist. 
The Huguenots throughout the South looked to her as 
their protectress, and her encouragement of them went far 
beyond the easy tolerance shown by her mother, Queen 
Marguerite. Xo two women were ever more strangely 
contrasted than Jeanne d' Alb ret and Catherine de Medicis. 
Both were resolute and quick-witted ; but Jeanne was 
morally strong, simple, sincere, and plain-spoken, her mind 
clearly to be read in her fine expressive face. 

There is a characteristic story of the two women at 
about this time. One day Queen Jeanne had consulted 
the wisdom of the Queen-mother as to the best way of 
saving not only her frivolous husband but her kingdom, 
threatened by Catholic Spain. Catherine advised " out- 
ward conformity to Rome." 

" Madame," said Jeanne d'Albret, " sooner than en- 
danger my soul I would throw my son and all the kingdoms 
of the world, if I had them, into the depths of the sea." 

Queen Catherine laughed. 

The year 1562, ushered in by tremendous storms and 
floods, was a terrible year for all who loved France or be- 
lieved in justice and humanity. It was a specially tragic 
\ ear for the Queen of Navarre. 

The hatred between Catholics and Huguenots was far 
too bitter to be held in check by any decree of toleration, 
138 



Valois and Bourbon 

and a few months saw the kingdom in a blaze of civil war. 
Begun by the famous massacre at Vassy, where the 
soldiers of the Due de Guise attacked a number of Hugue- 
nots singing hymns in a barn, this horrible struggle spread 
like wildfire throughout France. The Huguenots were 
strong and numerous, fully believing in their mission to 
uproot idolatry and to convert France by the sword. The 
Catholics were resolved to make an end of heresy, sacrilege, 
and rebellion. The leaders on both sides were equally 
fierce and keen ; and thus poor France entered on the so- 
called religious wars which lasted, with intervals of truce, 
for nearly thirty years, and reduced the country to a depth 
of misery unequalled since the Hundred Years War. 
Behind the religious quarrel was the rivalry of political 
factions, Bourbon and Guise ; and also the constant effort 
of the Queen-mother to hold the balance fairly even and 
by playing off one party against the other to keep her own 
power and to defend the monarchy. 

In the early months of the war she scored a point by 
detaching the King of Navarre from the Huguenot party. 
Antoine de Bourbon was a weak man, and the magical 
influence of the Valois Court, its wickedness and its charm, 
proved too much for his faith and honour. It was a man 
false both to his wife and to his cause who fell commanding 
the Catholic army at the siege of Rouen in the autumn of 
1562. 

Queen Jeanne returned to Protestant Beam, leaving her 
son at the French Court for a time : he w r as very popular 
there and a favourite playfellow of the boy Charles IX, 
not much older than himself. It must be remembered 
that while war and destruction were raging in the pro- 
vinces and even in Paris, the Court was seldom entirely 
on one side or the other. The Regent feared the ambition 
of the Guises even more than the rebellious discontent of 

139 



Stories from French History 

the Huguenots. It was the fashion to call theirs the 
' intelligent ' party, and their opinions on religion were 
held by many nobles and ladies of the Court. The Queen- 
mother expected only ' outward conformity,' and some- 
times not even that. Little Henri was safe in the care of a 
worthy tutor named La Gaucherie odd name for one 
employed at Court an original person who did not tor- 
ment him with ' grammar,' but educated him by word of 
mouth, making him learn many wise sayings by heart. 
He was a brilliantly clever child, already trained by his 
mother in Latin and Greek. 

For four years, according to his biographers, the Queen 
of Navarre left her boy with his Valois cousins, and no one 
who studies the life and character of Henri can say that he 
took no harm in that atmosphere of diseased nerves and 
vicious tendencies. However, he was taken back to 
Beam at the age of thirteen, and at sixteen, after the death 
of his uncle the Prince de Conde at the battle of Jarnac, 
was made leader-in-chief of the Huguenot armies, his young 
cousin Conde and the famous Admiral de Coligny being 
styled his lieutenants. At La Rochelle, now the head- 
quarters of the party, his mother devoted Henri solemnly 
to the cause. 

To this gallant, light-hearted young prince, as to his 
forefathers, a war of any kind seemed the most entrancing 
of games. Though at first kept out of the actual fight- 
ing, he soon proved himself a daring leader. His hardy 
upbringing carried him brilliantly through a long cam- 
paign, and it is strange to think of him, twenty years later 
to be welcomed and loved as the most popular of French 
kings, merrily helping to devastate his future kingdom 
with fire and sword, harrying Guicnne and Languedoc, 
sacking small towns and villages, destroying the treasures 
of churches, burning the outskirts of Toulouse, crossing 

140 



Valois and Bourbon 

the Rhone to take more towns by storm, sweeping down 
on the Saone, invading Burgundy, even threatening Paris, 
his army quite undiscouraged by several defeats and grow- 
ing in numbers as the months rolled on. Coligny, of 
course, was the actual commander of the Huguenot forces : 
but it was not only flatterers who praised the martial 
genius of young Henri of Navarre. 

In one of the intervals of peace, breathing spaces for 
France between the exhausting periods of long-to-be- 
continued war, Queen Jeanne appeared once more at 
Court. In the spring of 1572 she yielded to Queen 
Catherine's wish that the old plan might be carried out, 
the marriage of her Henri with Princess Marguerite. To 
the outward eye and Jeanne was not a deep politician 
the Huguenot cause seemed for the time victorious. It 
did not even matter very much that the unwilling 
Marguerite flatly refused to change her religion ; nor that 
she had set her heart on another Henri, the leader of the 
Catholic party, the young Due de Guise. Such obstacles 
were laughed away by Catherine de Medicis ; and after 
all, Jeanne d'Albret was as wax in those long hands of hers. 

But Jeanne did not live to see her son married to one of 
the worst and most fascinating of the bad Valois race. 
Was she poisoned by a pair of perfumed gloves, in order 
that Henri and his cause might be more completely in the 
Queen-mother's power ? Or did she die of consumption 
hastened by the heat of Paris in that June ? The mystery 
can hardly be cleared up now. In any case, she died, and 
the Prince of Beam became King of Navarre. 

In royal magnificence, having put off his deep mourning 
for the occasion, Henri was married to Marguerite at 
Notre-Dame. He was not nineteen, a handsome lad with 
shrewd eyes, a head of frizzy curls, and the long nose of 
French royalty : she a little over twenty, tall and majestic, 

141 



Stories from French History 

" her white face flushed with rose-red." She wore the 
Crown jewels and an ermine cape above her long trained 
mantle of blue velvet. All the Court was equally splendid, 
and Paris glowed in crimson and cloth of gold. But it 
was a strange wedding, with all its grand display. The 
Huguenot bridegroom was not allowed to enter the 
cathedral, the marriage ceremonies being performed on a 
platform outside the great west door. And Paris, full of 
the followers of Guise, looked askance at the crowds of 
Huguenot gentlemen who had streamed into the city from 
every part of France to attend the marriage of their chief. 
" It will be a blood-red wedding," people muttered in the 
streets. 

And so it came to pass. Six days brought Paris to 
Sunday the 24th of August, the Feast of St Bartholomew : 
that day and night of horror which stained the memory 
of Queen Catherine de Medicis ineffaceably with blood, 
lengthened the Wars of Religion by nearly twenty years, 
and sent Charles IX to his death in misery and madness. 



142 



CHAPTER XV 
HENRI QUATRE 

Je chante ce Heros, qui regna sur la France, 
Et par droit de conquete, et par droit de naissance, 
Qui par de longs travaux apprit a gouverner, 
Qui formidable et doux, sut vaincre et pardonner. 

Tout leptuple, change dans ce. jour salutaire, 
Reconnoit son vrai Roi, son vainqueur, et son pere. 
Des lors on admira ce regne, fortune, 
Et commence trap tard, et trop tot terming. 

F. M. AROUET DE VOLTAIRE 

PIERRE DE RONSARD, the friend of the unhappy 
Charles IX, who mourned the troubles of his time 
and immortalized its romance in exquisite poetry, 
was also an unconscious prophet of the years to come. In 
a poem celebrating a royal progress through the provinces 
made by the Queen-mother and two of her sons, he painted 
a picture so ideal, so far from the actual facts, that some 
of his critics can hardly decide whether it is an instance 
of absurd flattery in a Court poet or the expression of 
a pious wish. 

Morts sont ces mots, Papaux et Huguenots ! 

So Ronsard assured Catherine de Medicis ; and he went 
on to describe how religion was at rest, how old soldiers 
stayed peacefully at home, how the artisan sang at his 
work, how traders went fearlessly to market and labourers 
to the fields, returning home at moonrise to sit down to 
their well-earned meal : all lifting devout hands in prayer 
that she, the bringer of this peace, might live in health a 

143 



Stories from French History 

hundred years. No doubt this poetical epistle was written 
when the Queen-mother, as Regent, had made some politic 
advances toward toleration, and the poet's imagination 
carried him far in advance of his time. Forty years 
later the prophecy in all its details had been fulfilled by 
Henri IV. Misery, fear, and persecution were banished 
from the pleasant land of France. 

The story of the long civil war, with all its confusions, 
the " Bedlam of senseless strife " which was not ended 
even by the murders of Henri, Due de Guise, who claimed 
the crown, and of Henri III, the last of the Yalois line, is 
too complicated to be told here. The Huguenot King of 
Navarre, shrewd, practical, good-humoured, who con- 
quered hearts as well as armies, and changed his religion 
for the sake of winning Catholic Paris, no sooner reigned 
over France than he began his happy policy of healing her 
wounds. 

Those many years of fighting had left the country in a 
desperate condition. More than a million persons had lost 
their lives ; hundreds of towns and villages lay in ruins, 
bridges were broken down, rivers had become unnavigable, 
roads impassable, deep in mud and overgrown with briars 
and thorns : the land was uncultivated and the people 
were starving ; trades and manufactures had almost 
ceased. The kingdom, says Archbishop Perefixe, in his 
Life of Henri le Grand, " was so to speak a den of 
serpents and venomous beasts," being full of thieves, 
robbers, murderers, and other vagabonds. In a very few 
years Henri changed all this, rebuilt the ruins, paved 
the high roads, and set his people to work and to 
trade. An excellent book on agriculture, written by a 
Huguenot gentleman, Olivier de Serres, was his favourite 
reading. He established in every province manufac- 
tures of useful and beautiful things, interesting himself 
144 



Henri Quatre 

especially in the great new industry of silk-weaving. It 
was his desire that open spaces in town and country, 
even the gardens of Catherine de Medicis' palace, 
the Tuileries, should be planted with mulberry-trees for 
feeding silk-worms. 

At the same tune that Henri IV set men's hands to work 
he attempted to calm their minds and to check religious 
strife by the famous Edict of Nantes more famous still 
through its unhappy revocation less than a century 
later in which he assured liberty of conscience to his 
people, granting the Huguenots rights of free thought, 
of public worship in specified places, and of holding 
office under the State. The King's friend and counsellor, 
Maximilien de Bethune, Marquis de Rosny and Due de 
Sully, was himself a Huguenot, and of an uncom- 
promising type. A rough, honest man, the instrument 
of Henri's religious and political schemes, which did 
not please every one, and a fierce guardian of the 
royal finances, he was naturally unpopular at Court. 
Wily ambassadors and greedy courtiers found him totally 
incorruptible and unbearably rude. Comrades in arms 
and constant friends, two men could hardly have been in 
sharper contrast than were Sully and his gay, courteous, 
light-hearted, and pleasure-loving master. Their char- 
acters met on a common ground of practical good sense, 
clear views of reality, and a sincere love of France and 
her people. 

The King and his minister might have been seen walking 
together in Henri's new building, the immense wing of the 
Louvre known as the Grande Galerie. Sunshine poured 
through stately windows looking down on the river, across 
which Henri's still unfinished bridge, the Pont-Neuf, had 
been lately thrown. He might well be happy in his Paris, for 
on every side were the marks of his restoring and creating 
K 145 



Stories from French History 

hand. The city, like the country, had lain exhausted, 
her streets grass-grown, ruined, and half inhabited, at the 
end of the wars. Now new streets and squares were 
everywhere in building, and Paris, from the Place Royale 
to the quays of the Seine, the palaces on the Island 
and the beautiful houses and gardens in the southern 
quarter, was on the way to the classic splendour, pros- 
perity, and civilization of the age of Henri's grandson, 
Louis XIV. 

The post of confidential adviser to Henri IV was no easy 
one, for this popular King had weaknesses of character 
and temperament confirmed by his early bringing up at 
the Valois Court and the rough soldier life he had led for 
years. The wearer of the white plume of Navarre did not 
also wear "the white flower of a blameless life." Sully 
had something to do in patching up the quarrels between 
Henri and his second wife, Queen Marie de Medicis, a self- 
indulgent tvoman, jealous for her own dignity ; who had 
just cause indeed to complain of her husband, but who 
irritated him by her narrowness and obstinate stupidity, 
her devotion to Italian favourites, and her strong bias 
toward France's enemy, Spain. 

In these first days of May 1610 she was to be left Regent 
of the kingdom during the campaign planned by Henri 
against the Emperor in consequence of the Imperial claim 
to the frontier duchies of Cleves and Juliers. At this 
moment she insisted on being crowned : a ceremony long 
deferred and now for several reasons distasteful to the 
King. He did not wish to increase her authority, or 
rather, that of the unpatriotic clique surrounding her ; he 
disliked the great expense of the function at Saint-Denis 
and the State entry into Paris, as well as the delay of his 
expedition. And there were other more hidden reasons, 
strongest of all. 
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Henri Quatre 

After dinner that day at the Louvre, Henri played as 
usual with his six children, whom he dearly loved ; from 
Louis, a solemn boy of nine dressed like a little man; with 
cropped dark hair and plumed hat and a toy drum slung 
round his neck, to the tight-capped baby Henriette 
Marie, the future Queen of England, one day to be 
known as ' la Reine Malheureuse. ' A gay and loyal 
courtier, the Baron de Bassompierre, was in attendance. 
The Due de Sully being announced, Henri dismissed 
them all and began to pace the gallery, leaning on his 
minister's arm. 

They were very unlike in appearance, these two on 
whom the welfare of France depended. Henri was a man 
of fifty-seven, of middle height, thin and active, with worn 
nutcracker face, long nose; and pointed chin. His curly 
hair and beard were grey, but he had a wonderful look 
of youth and an irresistible smile, even in his worried 
moments. Sully, though six years younger, seemed, with 
his ponderous figure and bald brow, the older of the two. 
All the affairs of the kingdom, so lightly borne by the King, 
weighed heavily on him ; and now new royal troubles of 
mind were added to the load. For the Queen was to be 
crowned within a few days ; and the nearer the ceremony 
the stronger became the King's dislike and dread of it. 
Not for the first time he poured into Sully's ear those 
presentiments and fears of treachery and death which 
sounded to his friend almost unworthy of a brave 
man. 

' I tell you," he said, " I shall never leave Paris. The 
foreign party Austria Spain they have their army of 
traitors here, and they will stick at nothing to stop this 
war. I tell you, they will kill me. This accursed corona- 
tion will be the signal for my death. Ah, Sully, my 
heart fails within me ! ' 

147 



Stories from French History 

" What ideas, your Majesty ! What words from the 
hero who never turned his back on cannon-ball or musket- 
shot, pike or sword ! ' 

Thus growled Sully : and yet he was not a stranger to 
his royal master's misgivings. Rumour had long been 
busy with conspiracies against the King's life ; in many 
countries the report of his death had been already spread. 
Astrologers had dared to speak openly in warning : and 
certainly, says Perefixe, there had been signs in heaven 
and earth that the reign was approaching its end. A total 
eclipse of the sun ; a ' terrible comet ' ; earthquakes ; a 
rain of blood, visitations of plague ; strange visions and 
appearances, church-bells tolled by unseen hands : such 
things were whispered throughout France and had reached 
the ears of both minister and King. Henri had laughed 
at the astrologers, yet had listened to them. When a 
certain Thomassin, famous in his time and suspected of 
darker studies than astrology, warned him to beware of 
the month of May, and especially of Friday, the fourteenth 
day of the month, Henri seized the wizard by his long hair 
and beard, dragged him round the room, and flung him 
out with shouts of laughter. But he did not forget 
Thomassin's words, nor the older prophecy that he would 
die in a coach during the most magnificent function of his 
reign. 

Leaning on Sully, the King reminded him of all 
this, and ended with the same despairing cry : 'Ah, 
accursed coronation ! It will surely be the cause of my 
death ! " 

His old comrade, who loved him, was terribly distressed. 
Would not the Queen, he asked, knowing of these fears, 
consent even at the last moment to delay her coronation ? 
Or would not the King ride off to-morrow to the wars, 
leaving ceremonies and coaches behind ? 
148 



Henri Quatre 

Henri shook his head. " Willingly would I do so ! But 
my wife has set her heart on this affair and my absence 
would offend her mortally. No I must go through with 
it. If I die, I die, and the merry crew of the Court will 
find that they have lost a good master." 

" Sire, I cannot endure to hear you speak thus. Drive 
away these dark thoughts. You are in the prime of life, in 
perfect health, a great King and beloved by your subjects. 
My dear master, God numbers our days ! And I would 
have you place no faith at all in lying prophets and 
star-gazers, paid doubtless by your enemies to torment 
your noble spirit and to spread terror in France." 

" As you say, God numbers our days," the King 
repeated thoughtfully. " Yet prophets are not always 
proved liars. Stars are of God's universe : they cannot 
deceive. I hear you mutter that their interpreters may : 
'tis true, and make money out of fools. But what of 
omens ? Come here, old friend, and see." 

He led Sully across the gallery to a window which 
opened on the inner courtyard of the palace. Down on 
the paving- stones, its decorations trailing in the dust, 
lay the tall pole which was set up there with religious 
ceremony on every first of May. Workmen were now 
silently removing it. 

Hung with green boughs, garlanded with flowers and 
ribbons, adorned with banners and religious inscriptions, 
the ' May ' had its modern origin in offerings made by the 
guilds of Paris in honour of Our Lady. But probably the 
Druids welcomed spring in some such fashion. 

" You see our ' May ' ? " said the King. " It fell 
yesterday, without a breath of wind or a moment's warn- 
ing. I was in the gallery, returning from the Tuileries, with 
Bassompierre and others. I bade them stay here while 
I visited the Queen in her cabinet to hurry her dressing, 

149 



Stories from French History 

that she might not keep me waiting for dinner. From 
this very window they saw the fall of the ' May.' And it 
fell, as you see, right against my private staircase. When 
I returned to them Bassompierre was saying : ' God keep 
the King, for this is an evil omen.' I mocked at them 
and called them fools. But, Sully, what say you ? ' 

"They are fools, your Majesty. The pole was rotten, 
and some one deserves to be punished." 

But Sully was so far impressed by the King's presenti- 
ments that he appealed to the Queen to put off her corona- 
tion till Henri's return from the wars. For three days, he 
says, he pleaded with her Majesty in vain. Marie would 
not listen to him : and the suggestion of the King's 
absence, as he had foreseen, pleased her still less. So 
Henri, with the merrv kindliness that was natural to him, 

V 

laughed his own fears away. 

The coronation took place at Saint-Denis, with great 
magnificence, on Thursday, the 13th of May. It was 
noticed that the King was "extraordinarily gay." The 
Queen was to make her state entry into Paris, attending a 
grand service at Notre-Dame, on Sunday the 16th. On 
Friday afternoon the King ordered his coach and drove out 
to visit the Due de Sully, who had been taken ill suddenly 
at his lodgings in the Arsenal. Before leaving the Louvre 
he appeared nervous and restless, so that the Queen, now 
in high good-humour, begged him not to go. For a few 
moments he was irresolute, and before stepping into the 
coach asked his servants the day of the month. When 
they told him he laughed, and said impatiently to the 
coachman : "Drive on ! Take me out of this ! " ( ' v Mettez- 
moi hors de ceans ! "). 

Several gentlemen sat with him in the coach, which was 
unguarded, except by a few running footmen. It was 
open on both sides, the leathern curtains rolled up, for the 
150 



Henri Quatre 

day was fine, and Henri wished to see the triumphal arches 
in the streets, already adorned for Sunday's ceremony. 
The four horses pranced and plunged on the cobble-stones 
as they passed from the Rue Saint-Honore into the Rue 
de la Ferronnerie, close to the Cemetery of the Innocents, 
and here the royal coach was brought to a stand by two 
carts, one loaded with wine-barrels, the other with hay, 
which came lumbering along and blocked the street, its 
narrow thoroughfare already cumbered by stalls of iron- 
mongery and tin goods along the cemetery wall. The 
royal footmen turned in at the cemetery gate and ran 
along the cloisters in order to rejoin the coach at the end 
of the street. Two only remained near it, one running 
forward to deal with the carts, the other lingering behind 
to tie his garter. Thus, except for the coachman, the 
postilion, and a few passers-by, Henri and his companions 
were left alone in the street. 

A man from Angouleme, a mad, fanatical schoolmaster 
named Francois Ravaillac, had followed the royal coach 
from the Louvre. For days past, whether tempted by the 
Spanish party or inspired by a demon within himself will 
never be known, he had been watching his opportunity to 
kill the King. He now seized it. Slipping in between a 
tin-stall and the open coach, with one foot on the curb- 
stone and the other on a spoke of the wheel, he leaped up, 
and with a long, sharp knife stabbed the King twice to the 
heart. 

"I am wounded it is nothing," the King said: those 
who were with him scarcely heard the last faint words. 

Thus, on Friday the 14th of May, 1610, in his coach, in 
the midst of the most splendid ceremonies of his reign, 
died Henri of France and Navarre ; best loved of men 
and kings, the father of his people and the restorer of his 
country. 

151 



CHAPTER XVI 
THE IRON HAND 

Richelieu nous interesse comme un homme fort et coitrageux qui 
se livre a tons les dangers et se confie a sa fortune. Sa vie est un 
combat eternel. . . . Tout dans Richelieu imprime I'etonnement et 
commande, V admiration. Louis MAKCELLIN DE FOXTANES 

Voila rhomme rouge qui passe ! 

VICTOR HUGO 

A YOUNG man in episcopal purple, of middle 
height, very thin, with black hair, a delicate, 
pointed face, keen dark eyes under a broad brow 
full of intelligence, quick to catch and respond to every 
slightest glance from royalty." 

Such was Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu at the 
Court of Henry IV, by whose influence with the Pope this 
young Poitevin noble had been consecrated Bishop of 
Luon at the age of twenty-two. Henri called him ' my 
Bishop,' laughed at stories of his travels in Italy, was 
entertained by his witty, fearless talk, and certainly never 
guessed that this boyish ecclesiastic, who would so willingly 
have been a soldier, was to carry on his own royal work as 
a leader and ruler of men ; that this ambitious courtier 
was to make the glory and unity of France his sole objects, 
and to prepare the way for what has been called " one of 
the great magnificences of the world," the Golden Age of 
France under Louis XIV. 

Fourteen years after the death of Henri, having gone 
through chequered experiences during the regency of 
Marie de Mcdicis and the rule of Italian and French 
152 



The Iron Hand 

favourites in her name and that of the young Louis XIII, 
Armand de Richelieu, already a proved statesman, became 
a cardinal and First Minister of France. The purple 
cassock of a bishop is changed for the red flowing robes of 
a prince of the Church : he moves to his front place on the 
stage of history as we know him in Philippe de Cham- 
pagne's great picture, still slender, pale, and keen ; bright 
and flexible, as M. Hanotaux has said, like a sword that 
wears out its sheath. The sword did indeed wear out the 
sheath ; and Cardinal de Richelieu's career seems all the 
more remarkable when we know that he was never really 
well, and that even in the earlier years, before disease had 
laid its cruel and final hold upon him, he suffered con- 
stantly from feverish headaches, writing to his friends : 
" My pain is excessive. ... I am so persecuted by my 
head, I know not what to say." 

The death of Henri IV was a frightful blow to the peace 
and prosperity he had done so much to establish in France. 
When Richelieu took up his heritage of power these bless- 
ings had again vanished from the land. He would will- 
ingly have restored them : but a rich and happy France 
could not exist without the external and internal security 
which had vanished with Henri. In the last few years the 
power of Spain and the Empire had grown prodigiously 
and threatened the frontiers of France. Her provinces 
had fallen into the hands of great nobles and princes of the 
blood, who governed in the King's name, it is true, but 
ground down the populations, made enormous fortunes, 
and behaved like independent sovereigns. The Huguenot 
party, grown very strong, with leaders among the chief 
men of the kingdom, was now in constant rebellion against 
the royal authority, and its friendship with England was a 
growing danger to France. 

Louis XIII was not the man to deal with such a state of 

153 



Stories from French History 

things. No son could be a greater contrast to his father 
than he to the clever, resolute, popular Henri IV. He had 
all Henri's personal courage as a soldier, and was a splendid 
sportsman, caring indeed for little else. He was dignified 
and conscientious, shy, gloomy, and persevering, of weak 
health, and married to a childish, frivolous little Spaniard. 
Such a King needed a minister of genius, and Louis was 
wise enough to know it, and to place his entire trust in 
Cardinal de Richelieu. It has been truly said that the 
reign of Louis XIII may be more correctly styled the reign 
of Richelieu. For eighteen years, from 1624 till his death 
in 1642, the Eminentissime, as they called him, was the 
greatest man not only in France, but in Europe. 

It was not religious intolerance that inspired Richelieu 
in his fierce campaign against the Protestants of France. 
He was ready to ally himself with the Protestants of other 
countries against the Empire and Spain. But this was a 
political question, affecting the unity of the kingdom and 
its central doctrine, loyalty to the King. Louis XIII 
could not Richelieu was determined that he should not 
share his authority with the leaders of the Huguenot party. 
In their present temper of hostile and disloyal discontent, 
now at boiling point in a few privileged cities, they were a 
greater peril to France than her foreign enemies. Even 
after the King had fought and crushed them in the South 
their daring seamen put out from La Rochelle, their chief 
stronghold on the coast, attacked ships sailing under the 
French flag, and sank or captured them : losses ill to be 
borne by a navy which hardly existed in the early days 
of Richelieu's rule. 

" We must destroy this wasps' nest of La Rochelle ! ' 
said the Cardinal. 

Before he was ready for he had to build forts, provision 
an army, and create a navy the Duke of Buckingham 
154 



The Iron Hand 

sailed one summer day from Portsmouth and attacked the 
French troops already stationed in the Isle of Re outside 
the harbour of La Rochelle. If he had made straight 
for the city and the royal forts on its seaward side, the 
campaign might have ended differently. But the royal 
governor of Re and his little garrison held out bravely, 
though almost starving, until after several months Riche- 
lieu was able to send in provisions and reinforcements. 
Then, after serious losses in men and guns, Buckingham 
renounced his enterprise and sailed away. 

The people of La Rochelle watched from their walls the 
English ships disappearing on the dark November horizon. 
The winter fogs were closing in on them ; the great grey 
sea was empty of their friends. The islands that sheltered 
the harbour and all the sandy or marshy coast of the main- 
land were occupied by the royal armies, whose entrench- 
ments, seven or eight miles long, were connected by a 
string of forts : no relief by land was possible. But the 
" proud city of the waters," her harbour still open to the 
Atlantic Ocean, the home of so many of her bold sons, was 
not at all ready to give up the fighting independence of 
centuries. Her thirty thousand people were as one in their 
will to hold out against the King to the last. If England 
had failed them, they would defend themselves. When 
the siege was a few months old, they elected as mayor a 
sturdy sea-dog, by name Jean Guiton. Laying his dagger 
on the council- table, he said to the citizens : "If you elect 
me, remember that this steel is for the heart of him who 
first talks of surrender. You may plunge it into my heart, 
if the word is mine." The dagger lay there till by no fault 
of Guiton or his burghers the siege was ended. 

It dragged its slow length through the winter of 1627 
and the spring and summer of 1 628. The unhealthy, fever- 
laden marshes and the barren sand-dunes north, south, 

155 



Stories from French History 

and east of the city became an extraordinary spectacle of 
military activity, for the fighting strength of France was 
assembled there in a vast camp of tents and wooden huts, 
the King, the Court, and the Cardinal being lodged in little 
fortified manors or farms, country retreats of the merchants 
of La Rochelle. There, in the short, dark days, while 
Louis XIII rode up and down with his nobles " in tempest, 
wind, and rain," reviewing the troops or watching the 
bombardment of the city, Cardinal de Richelieu was the 
head and centre of all the siege operations. 

Look at him as he dismounts at the door of his quarters 
in the December twilight. He has spent the day with his 
engineers at the far point of the bay, where his own plan 
of a gigantic mole to close the harbour against ingress from 
the sea, and thus, completing the blockade, to starve the 
city into submission, has already begun to take formidable 
shape. Atlantic storms are fighting for La Rochelle ; 
wild seas have torn down masons' and carpenters' work, 
carrying away masses of stone and the heavy beams hewn 
and dragged with enormous labour from forests in the 
north. But winds and waves are not almighty when 
matched against Cardinal de Richelieu, and the work on 
the great mole is but begun again. 

He dismounts at the low doorway, slight, tired, and pale, 
leaning on a page's shoulder. This is indeed a soldier- 
priest, with pistols at his saddle-bow and a sword by his 
side, plumed hat, scarlet embroidered cloak flung over a 
steel cuirass. He walks Avearily into the room its rugged 
bareness veiled by rich hangings and furniture where his 
secretaries await him and logs blaze in the wide chimney. 

No rest for him here. Messengers from all parts of 
France demand immediate audience : letters must be 
read, consultations held with warlike bishops, the Car- 
dinal's lieutenants, and with commanders of the army. 
156 




Richelieu and Father Joseph 
M. Meredith Williams 



Stories from French History 

A deputation of anxious peasants implores his Eminence 
to remember his promise that the soldiers shall not molest 
the country-folk in their farm work or carry off their goods 
without payment. These are unceremoniously pushed 
out to make way for a group of splendid courtiers in 
velvet and fur. with long curled hair and deep lace collars, 
who bring a message from the King to his tired minister, 
excusing him from attendance that night at the royal 
headquarters and bidding him good rest. The Cardinal's 
words in reply are all of humble and grateful duty to his 
Majesty; his manner to the royal envoys is haughty and 
icily cold. 

" We shall be mad enough to take La Rochelle ! " says 
the Baron de Bassompicrre to his comrades as they ride 
away along the dimes. 

" Why mad ? The sooner the siege is ended the sooner 
shall we escape to Paris from this wilderness. I know his 
Majesty is already weary of it." 

" Mad ! Do you not see that when this man has 
crushed the Huguenots, our turn will come ! ' 

When the Cardinal is at last alone a shadow advances 
from the shadows, a thin figure like his own, disguised in 
the habit and cowl of a Capuchin friar. This is the famous 
Father Joseph, Richelieu's most intimate friend and 
counsellor, a man of noble birth and brilliant talents., but 
keeping himself ever in the twilight, the power behind the 
throne. For years men knew him as the Eminence <*rise. 

/ ' 

and if he had lived a cardinal's hat might have been the 
reward of his political sendees. 

Late into the night the friends talk, while great gusts 
from the sea shake the strong Avails of the little old manor. 
Sometimes there is a terrible cry in the wind : it has swept 
over the streets and towers of the doomed city and may 
well echo the voices of her already hungry people. But 
158 



The Iron Hand 

no such thought affects the stern designs and the steeled 
resolution of Richelieu and his shadow. 

And so through winter and spring the siege dragged on. 
After a time the King found it unbearably tiresome, 
and the Court returned to Paris, greatly to Richelieu's 
indignation. For a moment he wavered : should he 
follow the King and leave the siege to shift for itself? 
Constant attacks of fever were weakening him ; and 
meanwhile all the men who hated him must wax stronger, 
having his royal master's ear. But Father Joseph advised 
him to hold to the task, hard and cruel as it might be, 
which he believed to be necessary for the greatness of 
France. 

Through tremendous difficulties the mole was finished. 
By the month of May its two arms stretched nearly across 
the harbour entrance, ships laden with stones being sunk 
in the deep and narrow passage between them, and other 
armed ships moored outside. The people of La Rochelle, 
still watching from their walls, saw their last hope of relief 
proved vain. For the English fleet, returning more than 
once in the fine weather, found it impossible to break 
through. Besides Richelieu's fortifications by sea and land, 
his fleet was now strong enough to be an effectual guard. 

The heroic mayor and citizens of La Rochelle held out 
through the summer months in spite of frightful sufferings 
from famine. Fifteen thousand of the weaker inhabitants 
died and many lay unburied in the streets, for those who 
were left had not strength to remove them. A few 
escaped from the city and begged food from the King's 
soldiers ; many ' useless mouths,' old men, women, and 
children were driven out of the gates by Guiton, and, not 
being allowed to pass through the royal lines, perished 
miserably between friends and enemies. Richelieu, the 
man of iron, did not imitate the humanity of Philippe- 

159 



Stories from French History 

Auguste before Chateau- Gaillard or of Henri IV before 
Paris when fighting for his crown. He was determined 
that for the sake of France La Rochelle should learn her 
awful lesson. 

Once more, in late September, an English fleet appeared, 
only to be driven away by storms and gales after an 
attack that utterly failed. Then at last La Rochelle 
surrendered to Louis XIII. He and the Cardinal, 
followed by a large convoy of provisions, rode through 
streets full of the dead and the dying, while a few Aveak 
voices murmured: "Long live the King!' : A few days 
later, too late to save the city, the Cardinal's great mole 
was destroyed by furious Atlantic storms. 

Thus ended the rebellion of the Huguenots. Richelieu, 
as wise as he was strong, treated them with no unnecessary 
severity, but pardoned their leaders and granted them the 
free exercise of their religion as far as it might tally with 
loyalty to the State. 

Jean Guiton, the mayor, the soul of the city's defence, 
was asked by the Cardinal whether he wished to become 
a subject of the King of England. "My lord." he 
answered, " I would rather serve a king who could take 
La Rochelle than one who could not save her." He was 
given the command of a French man-of-war. 

And now, as Bassompierre had foreseen, Cardinal de 
Richelieu was free to throw his whole strength into the 
struggle with the great men of France which had already 
begun and which lasted through his whole ministry that 
is to say, his whole life. As long as he could keep the 
confidence and in a certain degree the affection of the 
King, he was fairly sure of victory ; it was the constant 
fear of losing these that made the fighter an old man before 
his time. More and more the nobles hated his restraining 
hand. He forbade duels, and the unlucky men who dis- 
160 



The Iron Hand 

obeyed the order lost their heads. So did those who 
plotted against him at Court, where even the Queen lived 
in terror of his jealous severity. So, perhaps with a better 
excuse, did men of the best blood in France, such as the 
Due de Montmorency, who allowed themselves to be 
goaded into open rebellion. Indeed, before his death the 
reign of Richelieu had become a reign of terror as far as the 
princes and nobles were concerned. Their fortified strong- 
holds were levelled ; their power in the provinces was re- 
placed by that of the King's Intendants. Many of them 
were driven into exile. But at home and abroad the great- 
ness of France grew : her arms were victorious ; her unity 
was her strength ; and she owed this unity to the strong 
hand and resolute soul of Cardinal de Richelieu. 



161 



CHAPTER XVII 
THE VELVET PAW 

Men ha . 

7 am ?;o' : /a?.n _/?.>: I /ound France rent 

rich men despots, and the poor banditti : 
- -& in the mart, and schi?m irithin the temple : 

I hare re-freated France : and from th- 
Oj '.h* oJdffudal a pit carcase 

Ci .on her luminou-s icings 



EDWARD, LORD LTTTOV 

IT would be a mistake to imagine Cardinal de Riche- 
lieu as entirely the red-robed ogre described by 
historv and his enemies. He had a verv human 

. 

side ; a faithful heart for his few constant friends and 
servants : a desire to please women and children, often 
defeated by the awkward pedantic stiffness which helped 
to make him unpopular in society, but appreciated by his 
own family. His nieces adored the generous uncle who 
not only planned splendid marriages for them these were 
State affairs of doubtful future happiness but took the 
trouble to choose such toys as a doll's house, beautifully 
furnished and inhabited by a whole family who could be 
dressed and undressed. Mademoiselle de Maille-Brezc. 
the Cardinal's sister's child, afterward the wife of the 
great Prince de Conde. was the lucky owner of this newly 
invented treasure. 

In the earlier days of his power, when the Court had not 
et learned to hate and to fear him. Richelieu tried hard 



The Velvet Paw 

to make himself agreeable to the young Queen. Anne of 
Austria, and her lovely and mischievous ladies. At the 
Queen's wish he even consented to give her an exhibition 
of his Spanish dancing ; strange accomplishment for a 
prince of the Church ! Dressed for the part in green velvet 
and silver bells, -with castanets in his hands, he danced 
before her Majesty. She was supposed to be the only 
spectator, except the CardinaFs own fiddler : but there 
were those who peeped and listened behind a screen, and 
the eminent dancer's airs and graces convulsed them with 
laughter that he never forgave. Queen Anne and her 
chief lady, the beautiful Duchesse de Chevreuse. paid 
dearlv in after vears for their mockerv of the Cardinal. 



His chief passion was the love of power to be used for 
the glory of France. But he had also a passion for mag- 
nificence in all his own surroundin_- : -plendid hou- 
splendidly furnished : paintings and statues by the first 
artists of the dav. whose works were brought to him from 



Italy at enormous expense. He was a great collector of 
curiosities and rarities of even* kind. Not content with 
posing as a patron of authors and artists, he was both a 
critic and an amateur. 

It seems amazing that a statesman with the affairs of 
Europe on his hands, in constant danger from personal 
and political enemies, should have found time to write 
plays and to superintend the acting of them ; more amaz- 
ing still that he should have been jealous of the great 
writers, his contemporaries especially of the mighty- 
tragedian Corneille. So envious was he of their fame, so 
afraid of their independent influence, that he devised the 
plan of bringing them together in an obediently formal 
society under his own ' protection. 5 In this way was born 
the French Academy, the famous literary tribunal which 
has held its own for nearlv three hundred vears. It was 

J * 

163 



Stories from French History 

not altogether the fault of its members if one of their first 
corporate acts was to condemn Le Cid and to refuse 
election to Pierre Corneille. 

Stiff poetry and high-flown romances, discussed at 
extreme length and with considerable affectation, were 
the fashion in Cardinal de Richelieu's time. The centre 
of these discussions was the Hotel de Rambouillet, a fine 
house near the Louvre, built to please her own fancy by 
Catherine de Vivonne, Marquise de Rambouillet, after 
the old town house of her husband's family, the Hotel 
d'Angennes, had been pulled down to make room for the 
new Palais Cardinal. The early seventeenth century in 
France cannot be understood without some reference to 
the work of Madame de Rambouillet. In the domain of 
manners and taste she was as great a leader as was Riche- 
lieu in that of home and foreign politics. She withdrew 
from the Court at an early age, being sickened by a coarse- 
ness of speech and ways no longer veiled under Valois 
elegance, and collected a society of her own in which 
refinement was the first and chief requisite, with birth, 
beauty, and talent to follow. Much has been written 
about the influence of French salons, which lasted more 
than two hundred years, till past the middle of the nine- 
teenth century. Madame de Rambouillet was the first 
Frenchwoman to hold a salon : the Hotel de Rambouillet 
in its palmy days was far more of a social centre than the 
Court of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria. 

Madame de Rambouillet designed her house herself, as 
a temple for conversation. She set the fashion, and many 
new houses in Paris and in provincial towns were built 
after her pattern. Some of them remain to this day. 
The old town houses of an earlier date had no large rooms 
for receiving company. Visitors were shown into any 
room, we are told, according to the hour or season. Nor 

164 



The Velvet Paw 

was there any special dining-room. A table was brought 
into one room or another, sometimes a bedroom, accord- 
ing to the number or intimacy of the guests. Madame 
de Rambouillet built a suite of lofty rooms undivided 
by passages or staircases ; doors and windows high and 
dignified ; the whole effect so stately, so well suited to 
society and its receptions, that the Queen-mother, Marie 
de Medicis, sent her architect to study it while building 
the Luxembourg, her new palace beyond the river. 

In the finest of these rooms, hung with blue velvet, a 
pleasing change from the old fashions of red and tawny 
looking out on the gardens and orchards, towers, great 
hStels, and narrow streets which divided her domain from 
the Louvre and the Tuileries to the south and south- 
west, the Rue Saint-Honore and the Palais Cardinal to 
the north Madame de Rambouillet held her famous 
assemblies. She, "the incomparable Arthenice " an 
anagram on her name, Catherine sat or reclined in 
an alcove, shaded by screens ; her eyes could not bear a 
strong light ; and further, this little air of ceremony had a 
restraining effect on the mixed company that visited her. 
They saw her like a goddess in a shrine, surrounded by 
crystal vases full of flowers richly bound books, and 
miniature portraits of her friends. They were led up in 
small parties for a few minutes' quiet talk : voices were 
low, for she could not endure noise. Women made polite 
curtseys and took chairs or stools according to their rank ; 
men kissed their hostess's hand and stood flourishing 
feathered hats, playing with jewelled sword-hilts. The 
hair of the ladies was curled in soft clusters ; they were 
dressed in shining satin with strings of pearls. And among 
all these fine folk came poets and novelists and divines 
in sober black, with plain white collars, carrying manu- 
scripts under their arms ; members of the new Academy, 

165 



Stories from French History 

Corneille in his manly independence, Bossuet, a young lad 
just learning to preach. And Madame de Rambouillet 
entertained all these people, listened to their poems, their 
plays, their romances, their sermons ; and the more 
worldly of her company, dukes and counts, a gay cardinal 
or two, the beautiful Princesse de Conde with her young 
son and daughter, and other delightful girls and boys who 
were to lead the society of a later day, smiled in the back- 
ground and gossiped and flirted and told malicious stories ; 
sometimes, wildly daring, of the Eminentissime, Cardinal 
de Richelieu. For though he was never bodily present at 
these assemblies, his spirit of universal suspicion and the 
shadow ol his red robe were never far away. And since 
not much more than the width of a street divided the 
Hotel de Rambouillet from the Palais-Cardinal, it was 
easy for spies to slip from one to the other. 

While rebuilding and beautifying Paris on both banks 
of the Seine, Cardinal de Richelieu had bought the Hotel 
d'Angennes. It faced south on the Rue Saint-Honor^ 
and west on the wall of Charles V, which for three hundred 
years had bounded the city on that side. He pulled down 
the house and others near it, buying out unwilling owners, 
and demolished the wall to make his gardens, much to the 
public discontent. Then he built the strange, squat 
palace which he left to the Crown ; we know it in its deep 
decadence as the Palais Royal. Here he lived in almost 
kingly state, with a strong guard at his gates, with a 
number of gentlemen and pages in attendance, with chap- 
lains, doctors, secretaries, musicians, and a large household 
of servants, to whom he was a generous if exacting master. 
Hither came his numerous spies, stealing in Avith their 
reports from France and abroad ; hither also came many 
beggars and poor pensioners, for Paris knew well that his 
charity was large. Poets and pamphlet- writers crowded 

166 



The Velvet Paw 

his labyrinth of galleries : the learned writer Theophraste 
Renaudot displayed the first copies of the first newspaper, 
the Gazette de France, founded by him under the Cardinal's 
protection. 

The gorgeous rooms of the palace, richly coloured and 
gilded, splendidly furnished, hung with portraits of famous 
people, looked out through windows of crystal framed in 
silver on stiff courts and gardens, shaven lawns, clipped 
alleys and glowing flower-beds : an army of gardeners 
saw to it that nothing grew astray. 

Twilight on a March afternoon : a bitter wind howling 
through the streets, whirling clouds of dust as poisonous 
as the winter mud, clattering the painted signs, the pride 
of the Rue Saint-Honore. The sentries shiver, clashing 
their halberds on the stones ; the blind men of the Quinze- 
Vingts, the Cardinal's almost opposite neighbours, come 
trotting back with their laden sacks from all parts of the 
city and slip in gladly under their own archway. 

He sits wrapped in a furry gown, one favourite cat on his 
knee, another on his shoulder, by the fire in his small and 
luxurious inner cabinet. The face under the red cap is 
yellow and worn. At his elbow is a table covered with 
plans and drawings of another of his palaces, the Chateau 
de Richelieu in Poitou, not yet finished, and the little new 
town outside its park gates. All is his creation and very 
near to his heart, an old river-fortress there being the 
original home of his family. He dreamed of reigning 
there in his old age, but fate would not have it so. One 
gains some idea of his strenuous life from the fact that he 
never visited chateau and town, though their building and 
furnishing constantly filled his thoughts and letters. 

" Yes pale colouring, such as fits the landscape- 
wainscots and ceilings painted in grisaille, touched with 
gold what is it, Joseph ? ' 

167 



Stories from French History 

His dreams of peace in the old home province, of the 
running river now chained in canals to ornament his new 
park, of the mother whose tenderness had never failed 
him through a sickly childhood, were suddenly broken 
through. He was the nervous, watchful ruler of France, 
every man's hand against him. 

Joseph du Tremblay the Capuchin comes gliding 
through a door hidden behind the hangings. 

" The Marquise de Rambouillet's windows are ablaze 
with light," he says. "Her guests are on the point of 
departing. Is it your Eminence's wish that they should 
be observed ? ' 

"Ah!" The Cardinal is still slightly absent-minded. 
The cats lift their heads and stare displeased with 
stony eyes ; both he and they are sphinx-like. His long 
hand with its brilliant ring caresses them into purring 
peace. 

" Ah ! Yes. And especially if Madame la Princesse de 
Conde is there. I am told that she talks aside with my 
enemies a group of confederates." 

" She is a stupid woman. And her husband is a 
worthless fool, very fearful of you." 

" I am not fearful of him." The two men's eyes meet 
in a smile like the flash of swords. " But if Madame la 
Princesse be stupid, friend Joseph, as you discourteously 
say, she is also beautiful, and knows how to conquer the 
silly minds of men. Nor is she too stupid to listen 
secretly to my enemies. And I would know certainly who 
they are that talk with her at the Hotel de Rambouillet, 
Have you at this moment a man or woman you can 
trust ? ' 

Father Joseph hesitates. 

"It is a service of delicacy. The doors of Madame la 
Marquise are very well guarded. AYe can watch the 
168 



The Velvet Paw 

guests coming or going but to enter the salon to 
shadow Madame la Princesse that is another matter." 
" Ah ! If managed indiscreetly it might make a scandal 
and set them all on their guard. No ; I have thought of 
another plan : bolder, therefore safer. You shall go, 
Joseph ; you shall go yourself from me to Madame de 
Rambouillet, and you shall make her understand that if 
she will serve me in these affairs I will do far more for her 
worthy husband than I have done for him yet. I gave 
him the Embassy to Spain. I will give him his choice of 
the richest governments in France. But not for nothing. 
It is for the safety of myself and the State that I should 
know the intrigues of those who dare to plot against me at 
the Hotel de Rambouillet who they are and what they 
say. Especially Madame la Princesse and her friends. 
Why do you shake your head ? ' 

" Because Madame la Marquise is above suspicion." 
" Did I say the contrary ? Is not that the reason ? ' 
" Pardon me ! She is loyalty itself, and utterly dis- 
interested." 

The Cardinal smiled. " The richest government in 
France, remember. Begone, friend Joseph ! I wait your 
report here." 

The little Eminence grise, his cowl pulled well over his 
face, slipped through the guard like a shadow. Past the 
chilly splashing of the fountain in the square, under the 
garden walls of the Rue Saint-Thomas du Louvre, to the 
gateway of the Hotel de Rambouillet : who would think 
of noticing a grey friar in the dusk, bent on some religious 
or charitable errand ? Some idlers knew him well enough 
and shrank aside. Late guests of the Marquise rumbled 
by in their coaches, lighted by running torch-bearers ; 
groups of gentlemen, followed by armed servants, laughed 
and gossiped as they strolled along ; some of the talk 

169 



Stories from French History 

reached Father Joseph's ears and made him frown. He 
did not concern himself with the chatter of the literary 
folk trailing modestly behind. 

Five minutes later he had sent in his name to Madame 
de Rambouillet and was ushered into her presence by an 
awestruck man-servant. 

The Marquise was tired and a little worried ; her 
assembly had been large ; and though conveniently deaf 
to much of its talk, she had known enough to make 
Father Joseph's visit slightly alarming. She observed 
him under heavy eyelids and waited anxiously, though 
with perfect outward calm. 

He began by compliments, for Joseph was a man of the 
world. He talked of her husband and the important 
mission on which he was employed and the high opinion 
held of him by Cardinal de Richelieu. He said that his 
Eminence would do much to show his esteem for Monsieur 
de Rambouillet very rich and important governments 
might be vacant but these were difficult times, and the 
Cardinal desired to ask a little proof of friendship oh, a 
mere nothing! from Madame la Marquise. In short, 
would she inform him of course in strict confidence as 
to the political intrigues carried on in her salon by certain 
persons the Princesse de Conde and others whose names 
the Cardinal wished to know persons who permitted 
themselves to speak ill of his Eminence or even to conspire 
against his authority ? 

Madame de Rambouillet's pale fair face flushed slightly 
and her fan fluttered as she listened to the string of 
promises and threats, bribes and warnings. When the 
friar paused at length for an answer it was ready. 

' I do not believe, won pcre, that Madame la Princesse 
is concerned in any political intrigue certainly not with 
any other of my guests. My respect and regard for his 
170 



The Velvet Paw 

Eminence are well known, and no one in my presence or 
in my house would venture to say a word against him. 
But in any case, the vocation of a spy is not one which 
commends itself to me." 

With formal bows and curtseys the friar and the lady 
parted. 

Seldom indeed had Father Joseph returned from a 
special mission confessing failure. But on this occasion, 
undoubtedly, the great Cardinal and his shadow were 
defeated by a woman's loyalty. 

" Did I not tell you so, my lord ? " 

" True. Joseph. We must try other means. But 
remember, no more preferment for our unlucky friend 
Monsieur de Rambouillet." 

The cats stretched their claws and yawned. 



171 



CHAPTER XVIII 

FIGURES IN THE FRONDE 

Un vent de Fronde 
ti'est leve ce matin : 
Je crois qu'il yronde 
Centre le Mazarin. 
Un vent de Fronde, 
S'est leve ce matin. 

J. DE BARILLON 

Vous allezjoindre, essaim charmant et fol, 
La farce italienne a ce drame txpaynol. 

EDMOND ROSTAND 

A LOVELY lady, fair and tall, eyes turquoise-blue, 
long soft ringlets twisted with loops of pearls, 
ropes and clusters of pearls about her white neck 
and satin-draped shoulders : thus appeared Anne Gene- 
vie ve de Bourbon, Duchesse de Longueville, to a great 
crowd assembled in the Place de Greve on an afternoon 
in January 1649. She was the centre of a brilliant group 
assembled at the Hotel de Ville. She and her friend the 
Duchesse de Bouillon, beautiful too, if less irresistible, 
came forward on the high steps of the building, each 
holding a little child in her arms, appealing with smiles 
to the crowd. They had moved voluntarily from 
their own houses to the Hotel de Villc, the home of 
the citizens of Paris, giving themselves as hostages 
for the good faith of their husbands, brothers, and 
friends, who had deserted the Court and offered their 
swords to the Parliament of Paris in its fight with 
Cardinal Mazarin. Not without reason the Parliament 

172 



Figures in the Fronde 

doubted the disinterested patriotism of these princes and 
lords. 

The Place de Greve was a wonderful sight on that 
wintry afternoon. The crowd was so immense, an eye- 
witness tells us, that it covered even the roofs of the 
houses. Men shouted and women wept, hardly knowing 
why. Well-clothed workmen and shivering beggars in 
rags, the sight of those shining forms on the perron roused 
all alike to wild enthusiasm. So royally beautiful, so 
like angels, hair and pearls shimmering among torches 
early lit ! They were ready to give themselves for Paris : 
surely they would protect Paris in these evil days, when 
the Queen-Regent had fled away with the boy-king, and 
the royal army was beginning to blockade the city. 

The noise in the wide square had a growling background 
of curses : curses of Cardinal Mazarin, the clever Italian 
who was carrying on the work of a great and patriotic 
Frenchman. Richelieu had been hated and feared : but 
the heavy taxes that financed his wars had at least been 
spent for the glory of France. Mazarin had gained 
victories in war and in diplomacy, and the burden of the 
taxes went on growing. He was insatiably greedy ; his 
hands clutched money : his handsome face and soft 
manners were found irresistible by the Queen-Regent, 
who was entirely controlled by him. The princes and 
nobles, so sternly checked in Richelieu's days, rejoiced at 
first in the Regency, for Anne of Austria gave with both 
hands whatever they chose to ask ; but after a time their 
jealous detestation of Mazarin drove most of them to 
take the side of the Parliament of Paris when it refused to 
register the royal decrees for taxes yet more oppressive. 

In such opposition, the Parliament of Paris had before 
its eyes the striking example of a very different Parlia- 
ment beyond the Channel, which for the time being had 

173 



Stories from French History 

laid royalty low. The fugitive Queen of England, a 
French princess, daughter of Henri the Great, was at this 
very moment shivering in fireless rooms at the Louvre. 

But the leaders of the Parliament of Paris, though 
giving themselves the airs of Roman senators in their 
tussle with Mazarin, and talking eloquently of the suffer- 
ings of the people, must have known that their hereditary 
assembly of judges, magistrates, and councillors did not, 
like the English Parliament, represent the nation. Only 
the seldom-convoked States-General could do that. The 
duties of the Parliament of Paris and of the provincial 
Parliaments of France were chiefly to register royal 
ordinances, to hear important appeals, and to carry on 
local government under the King's officials. This war of 
the Fronde, begun by the Parliament and carried on by 
the princes, was the uprising of a discontented bourgeoisie 
and a furiously restless nobility against a hated minister. 
It owed its name to a witty Parisian who compared the 
Parliament in its first attempts at rebellion to a party of 
schoolboys slinging stones in the city ditches, running away 
at sight of the watch, and beginning again when the coast 
was clear. In old French, the word fronde means a sling. 

Curses of Mazarin were drowned in the thunder of 
drums and squealing of trumpets as a band of armed men 
in the Parliament's pay forced their way through the 
crowd. Then some unhappy wretch who had failed to 
join in the shouting was set upon and hustled down a side 
street with savage cries of " A Mazarin ! ' Lucky if he 
escaped with his life. Then again the crowd pushed and 
thrust nearer to the Hotel de Ville, for a high window 
stood open and the most popular man in Paris, Paul 
de Gondi, the Archbishop's coadjutor, better known as 
Cardinal de Retz, was emptying bags of money and fling- 
ing handfuls of coin into the square. It was not always 
174 



Figures in the Fronde 

the most miserable who scrambled and fought for the 
money. Some of it found its way into the pockets of 
hawkers who with shrill cries of their own were selling 
hat-bands, neckties, collars, gloves, all a la Fronde. 
Even baker-boys' baskets were piled with long looped 
rolls a la Fronde. 

Monseigneur de Retz, his almsgiving finished, turned 
back laughing into the saloon. This little dark man, an 
eloquent preacher, a restless, fiery demagogue, had made 
himself the soul of the Parliament's resistance to the 
Regent and Mazarin. His activity was astounding. He 
spent these days in hurrying from one quarter of Paris to 
another ; in the dark dawn he was at the Porte Saint - 
Honore, persuading the populace to admit the great men 
they suspected, the Prince de Conti and the Due de 
Longueville, brother and brother-in-law of their enemy 
the Prince de Conde. That young military genius, the 
victor of Rocroy, with several thousand men under his 
command, was now devising means of cutting off the city's 
supply of bread. Then there was the difficult business of 
bringing about an understanding between these princes 
and the Parliament ; journeys between the Hotel de 
Longueville and the palace on the I sland ; haranguing 
the Parliament, haranguing the angry people in the streets ; 
advising and hurrying nobles who never took advice and 
never hurried themselves. Finally, Monseigneur de Retz 
had been inspired to appeal to the ladies ; to Madame de 
Longueville and her court of admirers. Beauty, charm, 
a passion for adventure and excitement, a strong hatred of 
Mazarin : thus came about the scene at the Hotel de 
Ville and the enthusiasm of conquered crowds. Though 
she was Conde's sister, her name of Genevieve was surely 
a good omen for the Parisians ! 

It was a gay scene in that stately room at the Hotel de 

175 



Stories from French History 

Ville when Monseigneur de Retz rejoined the company. 
Madame de Longueville and Madame de Bouillon, their 
chilly ordeal over, had handed their children back to the 
nurses and were sitting with their friends near the blazing 
fire. Round them were grouped ladies and gentlemen 
splendidly dressed, some fully armed, polished steel flash- 
ing back the firelight, blue scarves fluttering. Some had 
begun to dance to the low music of violins. Readers of 
the romances then so popular were reminded of a scene in 
the famous VAstree. Madame de Longueville talked 
languidly with her handsome but deformed young 
brother, the Prince de Conti, whom the Parliament had 
appointed Generalissimo, and with her friend the Prince 
de Marcillac, the future Due de la Rochefoucauld, the 
brilliant, attractive, cynical personage whose fame was 
to rest on his Maximes. Farther off, the centre of a 
group of great nobles, stood a middle-aged and very 
perfect gentleman, Henri d'Orleans, Due de Longueville. 

Let us fancy that Monseigneur de Retz was approaching 
this group, talking eagerly by the way with one of his 
friends, when a slight commotion near the door drew his 
quick attention. The guards there had made an attempt 
to stop the entrance of a figure that looked strange in 
that company : the figure of an old priest in a rusty 
cassock. But the old man waved aside their halberds 
with an air of authority, and they did not persist, for 
every one in Paris knew Vincent de Paul, the apostle of 
the poor, who was held in such honour that the Queen- 
Regent had long ago appointed him a member of the 
' Council of Conscience ' which advised her on Church 
appointments and charities. 

" What is your old master doing here ? " said the friend 
of Retz. " He looks furious. Have you displeased him. and 
has he brought a rod to chastise the wilful boy in public ? " 

17G 



Figures in the Fronde 

Retz laughed : but he walked quickly to meet ' Monsieur 
Vincent,' as Paris called him. The old man had been 
tutor to his brothers and himself and the trusted friend of 
his saintly mother, Madame de Gondi. Retz knew well 
that only a matter of conscience could have brought him, 
whose maxim was that priests should not interfere in 
politics, to the Hotel de Ville on such a day of stormy 
political adventure. 

He drew Monsieur Vincent into a window apart from 
the gay and restless crowd. We may imagine that the 
priest frowned as his eyes wandered over it. 

'These lords and ladies," he said, "what are they 
doing for Paris ? Tell me, Paul ! Paris is fighting in the 
streets, starving in the houses. Death and misery are 
abroad. Is it to be real civil war ? And why are these 
people laughing ? 5: 

'' It will certainly be civil war, Father, unless her 
Majesty is better advised. Let her dismiss her evil 
counsellors and grant the just demands of these princes 
and the Parliament : let her return to Paris with the King, 
to whom all are loyal : let her forbid Monsieur le Prince to 
blockade the city. It all lies in her Majesty's beautiful 
hands." 

Retz laughed. Monsieur Vincent scowled, still gazing 
on that gorgeous crew. 

' To them," he murmured, " it seems a merry ad- 
venture ! ' 

'Tis better to laugh than to weep," said his old pupil. 
" The Fronde will win in the end. Surely, Father, you 
are not a ' Mazarin ' ! " 

; ' Mazarin ! ' the old man repeated thoughtfully. 
' The struggle is with him alone ? Were it not for him, 
the adviser, their Majesties would return to their city? 
Paris would be saved ! " 

M 177 



Stories from French History 

Retz bowed and smiled. " You are a wise man. I 
might even say you are a prophet. But the prophets of 
old did not please every one. and there are those" he 
glanced around " who feel no consuming desire for such 
a return." 

Apparently, Monsieur Vincent paid no heed to the last 
words. But he walked on past the dancers to the inner 
group near the fire, and Madame de Longueville rose and 
curtsied to the ugly, shabby little figure. 

" Madame," he said, " this is not the place for one who 
desired in her youth to lead the religious life and was a 
lover of Christ and His poor. It is unworthy of you, and 
of others whom I see here, to find your amusement in the 
misery of Paris. But as to yourself, madame, your heart 
is not so hard as you think, and the day of repentance and 
atonement will yet dawn for you." 

Madame de Longueville's lovely smile faded. She 
shivered a little and looked down : but Monsieur Vincent 
was gone without another word, and the soft laughter of 
her friends surrounded her. 

We may suppose that the old man went back to his 
mission-house of Saint-Lazare, where he and his community 
lived and worked for the poor. The words of Monseigneur 
de Retz may have suggested to him a way of saving his 
people and stopping the civil war. For that night, we 
know, in all the bitter wind and rain, he rode out of Paris 
with one companion and made his way by dangerous roads 
and across the flooded Seine to Saint-Germain, where the 
Queen-Regent and the young King, with Cardinal Mazarin 
and the Court, were now lodged. 

Monsieur Vincent was received readily by the Queen, 
who supposed that he was acting as an envoy from the 
rebels in Paris. But he told her Majesty in plain words 
that he was no man's envoy ; and he asked her, for the 
178 



Figures in the Fronde 

sake of her people, to dismiss Cardinal Mazarin, whom they 
hated, from the head of affairs, to make peace with the 
Parliament, and to return to Paris with her son. As her 
answer Queen Anne referred the good man to Cardinal 
Mazarin himself. 

Monsieur Vincent's romantic mission was a failure, 
though kindly Queen and smiling minister treated him 
with the respect he deserved. And the consequences to 
him were painful, for it was rumoured in Paris that he had 
gone to Saint-Germain, and the people, believing him false 
to their cause, rose in fury and destroyed Saint-Lazare. 
It was many months before Monsieur Vincent was able to 
return to Paris. He wrote in his sad disappointment and 
humility : 'I thought to serve God by going to Saint- 
Germain, but I was not worthy." 

In the end Cardinal Mazarin, and after him the young 
Louis XIV, triumphed over Parliament and princes. But 
the crazy struggle in its two long episodes, the Old Fronde 
and the New, lasted five years and caused great misery in 
Paris and the provinces. A patched-up peace between 
Queen Anne and the Parliament brought little satisfaction 
to royal and noble frondeurs and frondeuses. As the great 
ones of France had conspired against the severity of 
Richelieu, so they rebelled and fought against the gentler 
methods of Mazarin : the final result being the establish- 
ment of absolute royal supremacy. 

We see the Prince de Conde turning against the Crown, 
which he had defended ; imprisoned, released ; he and 
other princes storming over the wretched country with an 
army of mercenaries who recalled the worst times of the 
Hundred Years War ; besieging Paris with great slaughter, 
and only rescued from the royal troops by the daring 
energy of his cousin, Mademoiselle de Montpensier, who 
threatened to tear the beards of the city magnates, and 

179 



Stories from French History 

turned the King's guns on the King's own men. We see 
the same young princess, la Grande Mademoiselle, one of 
the most romantic figures of her time, riding fully armed 
and helmeted at the head of her troops ; taking possession 
of the city of Orleans and posing as a new Jeanne d'Arc. 
We sec the Duchesse de Longueville and her friends raising 
Normandy against the King, while the Princesse de Conde 
defends Bordeaux. It is all a riot of wild and dashing 
adventure ; a comedy in its desperate gaiety, a tragedy 
of lost lives and desolated homes ; a war without worthy 
motive or lasting consequence. 

The Fronde drove Mazarin out of France, but he soon 
returned, more powerful than ever. It taught young 
Louis XIV to dislike Paris, and convinced reasonable men 
that the welfare of the country needed the strong hand of 
an absolute ruler. It was the last flare of the age-long 
struggle between the monarchy of France and her proud 
nobility. 

Most of the chief actors in that stormy drama ended 
their days peacefully as loyal subjects of Louis XIV. 
Monseigneur de Retz became a wise and respected 
cardinal. Many heroes and heroines consoled themselves 
with literature and the arts. Monsieur Vincent returned 
to his flock and died at Saint-Lazare. The lovely lady of 
the Hotel de Ville gave up the world and its splendours for 
a life of religious devotion twenty-seven years long. She 
divided her time between the famous convent of the 
Carmelites, where she was educated as a child, and the 
persecuted nuns of Port Royal. By her powerful protec- 
tion of those good women she earned from Madame de 
Sevisme the title of ' a Mother of the Church.' 



180 



CHAPTER XIX 

THE RISING OF THE SUN-KING 

Ce siecle, semblable a cehii d'Auyuste, produisoit a I'envi des 
hommes illustres en tout genre, jusqiCa ceux meme qui ne sont bons 
que pour les plaisirs. Due DE SAINT-SIMON 

Dame Irene 
Parle ainsi : 
Quoi ! la reine 
Triste id ! 
Son alteuse 
Dit : Comtesse, 
J'ai tristesse 
Et souci. 

VICTOR HUGO 

IN a delightful book called La Flew des Histoires 
Frangaises M. Gabriel Hanotaux has helped us to 
realize the advance from medieval times to that 
which is known as the ' Great Century,' the ' age of Louis 
Quatorze,' by a comparison between the Gothic cathedral 
of Notre-Dame and the classic hotel and church of the 
Invalides. The cathedral, he says, was built in years 
of trouble and unrest ; its architecture strains with 
painful effort toward heaven. The Invalides, planned 
by Henri IV and built by Louis XIV as a home for 
old soldiers, has the solid, massive unity of a period of 
settled strength and fulfilled aspiration : it is simple, 
powerful, and harmonious. We might add, the one dreams 
of a perfection beyond this earth : the other aims at 
reaching it here. 

The seventeenth century in France was a period of great 
men ; and after the disorders of the Fronde they came to 

181 



Stories from French History 

their own. The names of Rene Descartes, Pierre Corneille, 
and Blaise Pascal are immortal in their several ways : 
philosophy, " the art of just reasoning and clear thinking " ; 
knowledge of the human heart ; the theory of real re- 
ligion. There follows what has been called the Pro- 
cession of Genius : La Fontaine, the voice of nature itself 
in his wonderful Fables ; Moliere, the brilliant comedian 
and satirist of the follies of his time ; Racine, the tender 
and refined dramatist ; La Rochefoucauld with his im- 
mortal and terrible Maxims ; La Bruyere, the painter of 
word-portraits ; Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux, the great orator 
and theologian ; Fenelon, the religious genius ; and many 
more. Such soldiers as Conde, Turenne, Catinat, and 
Vauban fought for the Sun-King ; such sailors as Duquesne 
and Jean Bart flew his flag on the seas ; such statesmen as 
Colbert and Louvois administered his realm and organized 
his Avars. The society of his time lives in the unequalled 
letters of Madame de Sevigne and the graceful novels of 
Madame de La Fayette. His actual Court was his own 
creation. No king had ever before gathered round him 
all the nobility and beauty and intellect of France as 
Louis XIV did. 

Quite early in his reign this magnificent young monarch 
began to make his nobles understand that their place was 
round the throne. Richelieu had practically destroyed 
their independent power : they had struggled with 
Mazarin, and lost : now they were to figure in a new kind 
of splendour as members of the most strictly formal, most 
stiffly gorgeous, yet most brilliant and admired Court 
ever known. 

In those earlier years the Court followed the King, 
himself a soldier of high spirit, in the wars with Spain 
and the Low Countries which added territory to France 
in the north and east and gave her the modern frontiers 
182 



The Rising of the Sun-King 

which Vauban fortified. In those years, as far as 
external glory and success were concerned, France stood 
easily first in Europe. But all the victories and all 
the splendour had to be paid for : and in spite of 
Colbert's financial reforms men might see in the sufferings 
of heavily taxed provinces the other side of that shining 
shield. 

In the late spring of 1670, in a short interval of peace, 
Louis XIV set out from Saint-Germain with the Court and 
a large military escort to visit his recent conquests on the 
Flanders border. We have a picture of the young King 
as he pranced forth on such a triumphal expedition. Not 
much here of the sober stateliness, the measured dignity, 
that marked his later days at the great Chateau of 
Versailles, hardly yet existing. All is dash and gallant 
gaiety : the King's tall horse, in jewelled harness with 
silver-gilt stirrups, dances beneath its light and graceful 
rider. Under his large feathered hat the long curls of hair 
are tied with flame-coloured ribbons. A deep point-lace 
collar falls over his blue silk jacket ; this and his wide 
breeches, which stand out " like a little petticoat," are a 
mass of gold embroidery down to the lace-lined tops of his 
high soft boots. Diamonds glitter on every brooch and 
buckle. Men and women compare Louis to the god Mars, 
and worship him accordingly. 

Among the King's troops the wearing of uniform was 
coming into fashion, though far from universal. The 
Swiss Guards are described as dressed in blue and red 
frieze laced with silver, with black velvet caps and plumes 
of red, white, and blue. They marched to the music of fife 
and drum ; tall, fine men carrying halberds. The famous 
Musketeers, riding on white or black horses, wore blue 
cloaks with silver embroidery. The common soldiers 
were in coarse cloth, red, blue, or brown, a black scarf 

183 



Stories from French History 

twisted round the neck. These details may give us an 
idea of the appearance of the escort which accompanied 
the King on that progress through the north-eastern 
provinces. 

The troops were commanded by the Due de Lauzun. a 
showy little courtier, and among the hundreds of great 
people in coaches, attended by crowds of servants and 
wagon-loads of baggage, who accompanied the King and 
Queen, was that eccentric and very human princess 
Mademoiselle de Montpensier, whose middle-aged fancy 
for M. de Lauzun nearlv ended in marriage. Some 

, O 

historians declare that after many vicissitudes it did so 
end ; which appears to be more than doubtful. 

It is to Mademoiselle that we owe the graphic and 
amusing story of that so-called triumphal progress of 
twelve thousand persons royalties, courtiers, ladies, 
Court officials, servants, soldiers, and camp-followers, 
with their trains of coaches, carts, and wagons, and all the 
horses and mules without which this multitude could not 
move: a progress in which luxury and splendour were 
matched by hardship and discomfort to a degree even 
then unusual. 

The Court left Paris on 28th April and journeyed in slow 
dignity as far as Saint-Quentin, sleeping on the way at 
Senlis and Compiegne. So far the weather was kind, and 
Mademoiselle, while attending the young Queen at her 
card-table, was able to sit in a window and talk to her 
cousin the King as he strolled with his gentlemen in the 
garden. Louis invited her to join them. " I was dying 
to go," says Mademoiselle, " but the Queen would have 
been angry." For M. de Lauzun was with the King, and 
people already perceived that la Grande Mademoiselle, 
first cousin of royalty and the richest heiress in Europe, 
had neither eyes nor thoughts for any other man. Lauzun 
184 



. m 




Louis XIV and his Court on their Expedition to Flanders 
M. Meredith Williams 



Stories from French History 

himself was very discreet and careful, living in terror of 
the royal displeasure, brave soldier as he was. Made- 
moiselle was not equally prudent and found her chief 
interest and delight, during the expedition, in watching 
the little gentleman in his new dignity of general-in-chief, 
the object of envy to other nobles who must receive his 
commands uncovered while he was privileged to wear his 
hat. This was not always the case, however : one day 
Mademoiselle saw her hero talking bare-headed with the 
King in a deluge of rain which soaked his hair unbecom- 
ingly and dripped from his ears. 

" Sire," she cried, " order him to put his hat on ! He 
will certainly be ill." 

This was in the later days of the expedition. Its 
miseries began with an early start from Saint-Quentin on 
Saturday, 2nd May. The weather w r as bad ; provisions 
were scarce ; no fish, no eggs, no fresh butter, half-baked 
bread. Terrible roads ; horses and mules foundered and 
carts buried in the mud. Coaches stuck in quagmires or 
actually lost in the marshes near the river Sambre, which 
was in flood and rising every hour ; their owners escaping 
with difficulty on the backs of the coach-horses. Heavy 
and ceaseless rain ; early darkness ; night actually clos- 
ing in before the royal coaches approached the place 
w r here they were supposed to ford the Sambre. A 
desert of mud and loneliness ; hardly a village or a 
farmhouse ; gloomy forests on the horizon, the swollen 
river in front ; the heavy wagons and trains of pack- 
horses, laden with the baggage, the food, the cooking 
utensils, the beds and furniture and all the necessaries 
of royalty, Court magnates and great officials, straggling 
leagues behind in the deeply rutted tracks of a half- 
inhabited country. 

The ford proving dangerous, if not impossible, the royal 

186 



The Rising of the Sun-King 

party were advised to try another two or three miles 
farther on. They plunged forward through darkness, rain, 
and mud, the King leading the way on horseback, his 
effeminate brother, Philippe, Duke of Orleans known as 
Monsieur and the majority of the Court clinging to 
the shelter of their coaches. Queen, princesses, ladies, 
waiting-maids, jewel-cases, personal luggage: the coaches 
were crammed. Torches and lanterns were scarce. When 
the few lights flickered on the black rolling waters of a 
second impassable ford, all those women took to scream- 
ing, Queen Marie-Therese and Mademoiselle de Mont- 
pensier at their head. One little lady seems to have been 
the exception, though troubled and ill at the time : this 
was Henrietta Stuart, Duchess of Orleans, daughter of 
Charles I of England and Henrietta of France. Louis XIV 
always honoured and admired his English sister-in-law : 
in this moment of confusion, when vexed and deafened 
by the silly clamour round him, he may well have valued 
her self-control. 

The coaches were dragged back to the high road, such 
as it was, and then into a meadow belonging to a small, 
poor, empty farmhouse. We may fancy that the peasant 
farmer and his wife had fled away into the night for fear 
of that great noisy invasion ; rumbling, trampling, shout- 
ing, shrieking between then: little home and the river, as 
French or Flemish troops had done in the recent wars. 
Peace must have seemed to Jacques and Jeanne just as 
disturbing and full of alarm. So they left their scraps of 
furniture and their firewood in the two mud-floored rooms, 
their cows and donkeys tied up in the shed, their skinny 
fowls on the rafters, and escaped to the village not far off ; 
a village with a church and good houses, where the Court 
might have found better quarters by pushing on through 
the rain. 

187 



Stories from French History 

Lighted by one dim candle, the King handed the Queen 
from her coach into this poor shelter. Marie-Theresc had 
the Spanish formality, the reverence for etiquette, of her 
mother-in-law, Anne of Austria, without Anne's natural 
good-humour and ease. She was horrified and dis- 
gusted. Close on midnight, no bed to sleep in, nothing 
to eat, half dead with fatigue and hunger, her Majesty's 
only refuge those four miserable walls! "What pleasure 
can there be," she groaned, " in such a journey as 
this?' 1 And then, to make matters worse, her Majesty's 
train was nearly torn off, for the floor gave way under 
the stately tread of Mademoiselle, who was holding it, 
and she descended knee-deep into mud and water. 

" Ma cousine, vous me tirez ! " cried the Queen, stiffly 
indignant. 

The Princess excused herself. " Madame, je sids cti- 
foncee dans un trou ! ' 

The King decided that there was nothing for it but 
to await daylight. The Court must sleep in the coaches ; 
he and the Queen, with her waiting-women, occupying 
the farmhouse. Mademoiselle retired obedientlv to her 

V 

coach, loosened her rich travelling garments, and put on 
her nightcap and dressing-gown. Being far too restless 
to sleep, she presently paid visits to the inmates of other 
coaches, her servants carrying her through the mud. 
She found her neighbours talking and laughing, but their 
conversation bored her. Monsieur, for instance, always 
ill-natured, was making personal remarks on M. de Lauzun. 
Mademoiselle returned to her coach in an ill humour and 
frightfully hungry. 

A welcome messenger from the King invited her and 
other favoured persons to supper in the farmhouse. Food 
had been fetched from a town not far off, and most of the 
party were too hungry to be critical, though the soup was 
188 



The Rising of the Sun-King 

thin and cold and the chickens were so tough that the 
strength of two persons was needed to tear them asunder. 
King Louis, always cheerful and even-tempered, made 
the best of it, but the poor Queen was both miserable 
and angry. She refused to touch the repulsive food ; but 
when the King, Monsieur, Madame, and Mademoiselle had 
greedily swallowed the last spoonful of soup she complained 
bitterly : "I wanted some, and they have eaten it all ! ' 

Etiquette did not permit a smile. The Queen's in- 
stincts had already been offended by the King's 
suggestion that mattresses should be laid on the floor 
for the royal party and various ladies, the one good 
travelling bed being reserved for her Majesty. A fire 
had been lighted under the black yawning chimney, and 
the room, poor as it was, would be warmer than a coach. 

"Horrible! What, sleep all together? " cried Marie- 
Therese, her Spanish proprieties outraged. 

But the King had his way. They laid themselves down 
in rows on the mud floor of that smoke-grimed hovel near 
the flooded Sambre, those personages, a dozen or more, 
whose names occur to us naturally when we think of the 
Court of Louis Quatorze. The great King himself, active, 
capable, full of dignity, with his handsome, commanding 
looks and cloud of dark curled hair ; Monsieur, fat and 
frivolous ; Madame, thin and melancholy ; Mademoiselle, 
large, frank, and masculine : these were the royal Bour- 
bons. Then there were beautiful women with histories of 
their own: Madame de la Valliere, Madame de Monte- 
span, her witty sister Madame de Thianges ; and a few 
other great ladies specially in attendance on the little 
Queen, whose fat cheeks and heavy eyelids peeped out 
under her sheltering curtains. All, including the King 
and his brother, had put on nightcaps and dressing-gowns 
over their curls and finery. All were dead tired and ready 

189 



Stories from French History 

to fall asleep ; but this was not so easy, for there was a 
constant tramping in and out of the royal officers, M. de 
Lauzun among them, who were lodged in the smaller room. 
These gentlemen's spurs caught in the lace of the ladies' 
nightcaps as they picked their way among the mattresses, 
and everybody, except the Queen, was in fits of laughter. 
The cows and donkeys joined in after their own fashion on 
the other side of the wall, and at last the comicalness of the 
whole affair was too much for her Majesty : she also began 
to laugh. " Which pleased the King," says Mademoiselle, 
i; for he was sorry to see her vexed. And we went to sleep." 

Daylight proved most unbecoming. Pale and dis- 
hevelled, the ladies missed their rouge : all but Made- 
moiselle, who rejoiced in her own natural colour. They 
gladly scrambled into their coaches, returned to the high 
road, and rumbled on to the nearest town, where an 
early Mass and breakfast awaited them. The rain still 
descended in torrents. 

Jacques and Jeanne, we may suppose, splashed home 
in their heavy sabots through the mud. Whether they 
had any reward for their forced hospitality to the Court of 
France, or any compensation for damage done to the little 
farm, must be for ever unknown. The broad wheels of 
the coaches had ploughed up their meadow ; their floor 
was spoilt, their firewood burnt ; their skinny fowls had 
been commandeered, their poor beasts had been robbed 
of hay to feed the King's horses. If the Court officials 
were honest men, all may have been well. Louis XIV was a 
just and kindly man at heart : spoilt, selfish, and blind, no 
doubt, but fair and generous. It was never his deliberate 
will that his poor subjects should suffer for him. 



190 



CHAPTER XX 
VERSAILLES 

Orand air. Urbanite desfacons anciennes. 
Haut cMmonial. Reverences saw fin. 

Tout un monde galant, vif, brare, exquifi et fon, 

Arec safine tpt.e en rerrouil, et fturtont 

Ce mtpris de fa mort, comme unefleur, mix Ir 

ALBERT SAMAIN 

Versailles, c'est I'ceuvre et la volonte de Louis XIV ; c'est la qu'il 
fut vraiment le grand roi. 

GABRIEL HANOTAUX 

IN those years the great Chateau of Versailles rose like 
a dream among the forests and marsh-lands west 
of Paris. That wild tract of wooded hill and valley, 
hardly inhabited except by wolf, wild boar, and smaller 
game, with its deep lonely ponds and impenetrable 
thickets, had been for many centuries a favourite hunting- 
ground of the French kings. From its highest points, 
then as now, the towers of Paris were visible. 

Louis XIII had built himself a hunting-lodge of brick 
and stone in the middle of the forest, where the few houses 
of an ancient village, with their parish church, clustered 
round a windmill. In older times there were a priory and 
a leper hospital at Versailles. The peasants lived as they 
might on the undrained and sandy soil ; but it seems that 
in the fourteenth century four fairs and a weekly market 
were granted to them, so that Versailles, not far from at 
least one high road into the West, must have been a 
trading centre for other villages and scattered hamlets. 

191 



Stories from French History 

It was also near Choisy-aux-Boeufs, a chief halting-place 
for cattle on their way from the provinces to Paris, which 
was swept away to make room for the vast new park of 
Louis XIV. 

Louis XIII was the last King of France who held his 
Court and made his chief home at the Louvre. His 
widow preferred more modern and comfortable quarters 
at the Palais Royal, or, when absent from Paris, at the 
neighbouring chateau of Saint-Germain. Louis XIV grew 

^j O 

up with a strong dislike of restless Paris with its floods, 
famines, frondes, emeutes, barricades. He found Saint- 
Germain too small and too near, Fontainebleau in its 
romantic beauty too far away. He determined to build 
a house of his own, where he could live the life that pleased 
him : the life of magnificence and luxury which seemed 
to him due to his position as a great king, the central 
figure of a great nation, the head of the most splendid 
Court in Europe. Louis XIV had a genius for the spec- 
tacular in life : he was a lover of beauty as he understood 
it, the ordered, dignified, classical beauty of his time. 

Le Van and Mansart as architects, Le Brun as decora- 
tive painter, Le Notre as gardener-in- chief, the most 
famous men in France in their several professions, were 
employed in the creation of the chateau and its surround- 
ings ; but every sketch and design was submitted to the 
King and freely criticized by him. 

A new town was built. Old Versailles except the little 
chateau of Louis XIII, which was preserved as the kernel 
of the vast new building disappeared under the tools 
of an army of workmen which at one time numbered 
thirty-six thousand. The forest retired in ordered lines, 
though a great park of a studied wildness surrounded the 
immense and formal gardens which fell away from the 
palace terraces in long sweeps of turf and flights of marble 

192 



Versailles 

steps, clipped alleys and avenues and groves, the silver 
flashing of hundreds of leaping cascades and soaring 
fountains, and beyond all the broad rippling waters of 
the Grand Canal, which spread in three arms to west, 
north, and south. Regiments of tall trees framed the 
stately scene and its population of statues and groups in 
bronze or marble, the work of famous sculptors of the age. 
The wide facades of the chateau itself, the high balconied 
windows of its galleries, gazed with regal dignity down 
this splendid vista to the distant horizon. 

Those who know Versailles in these days understand 
that its real life ended with the old French monarchy. 
But it will live for centuries yet, appealing to modern 
minds by its old-world charm, a type of seventeenth- 
century beauty. 

In the earlier and more brilliant years of his reign, long 
before the works at Versailles were finished, Louis XIV 
held many gorgeous fetes there. Open-air ballrooms, 
open-air banqueting halls, open-air theatres, where 
Moliere and his troupe acted comedies, were crowded 
with the royalty and nobility of France. In those days 
the King himself rode with his nobles in masquerades 
borrowed from the Orlando Furioso, and competed with 
them for prizes in the running at the ring. Summer 
nights, when fountains and parterres were illuminated 
with coloured lanterns, were often spent with music on 
the Grand Canal, in gondolas brought from Venice and 
rowed by Venetian gondoliers in crimson and gold. Thus 
one might glide on a moonlit track down the northern arm 
of the canal to a midnight collation at the little palace of 
Trianon, built first in porcelain, later in marble, on the site 
of another forest village. 

Versailles became by degrees, as the building and 

decorating of the great chateau, its town and dependencies, 

N 193 



Stories from French History 

and the laying out of its wide surroundings advanced to 
completion, the home and centre of an enormous Court. 
Some of the nobility built themselves hotels in the nearer 



streets, and each morning at the chateau gates their gilded 
coaches jostled those of ministers and great men newly 
arrived from Paris. Royal princes and princesses had 
their apartments in the palace itself. It was also in- 
habited by a crowd of officials and of courtiers to whom 
the King had granted rooms there. Many of these lived 
in the utmost discomfort in dark kennels under the stair- 
cases, stinking and airless corridors infested by beggars 
and thieves, every corner of space that could be spared 
from the royal apartments. Even these, except the King's 
own rooms, were anything but habitable, for all at Ver- 
sailles was sacrificed to marble and gilding and outward 
show. But that eager, ambitious crowd of men and 
women did not complain of hardship ; to be near Majesty 
meant paradise for them. They strutted forth day by 
day from their stifling or freezing dens, bewigged, painted 
and powdered, velvet-coated, satin-gowned, bold and gay 
of air, full of witty and malicious talk, every bow and 
curtsey and graceful gesture with its special shade of 
meaning, and all with one object in their lives, to copy 
and flatter the King. 

For as Louis XIV grew older the spirited soldier-prince 
became the stiffest, most autocratic of formalists. By his 
own studied manners he judged those of other men, to 
whom his approval meant advancement and solid gain. 
Each salutation was a work of art : none was careless or 
neglected, from the lifting or taking off the hat for every 
woman, humble serving-maid or great lady, to the mere 
touch for a nobleman. The same careful regulation of 
manners ran through the whole of his daily life. The 
thousand rules of Court etiquette might have been 

194 



Versailles 

scarcely endurable, but for the fact, to which his own 
courtier bears witness, that the natural temper of 
Louis XIV, his kindness, forbearance, and consideration, 
equalled in perfection his outward bearing. 

There came a time when Avcariness began to steal over 
that gorgeous Court life of Versailles. The beautiful fetes 
were held no longer ; the poor little Queen had died " the 
first grief she ever caused me," said Louis XIV ; the lovely 
ladies who reigned in succession at Court had fallen from 
favour ; and the King had privately married a handsome, 
austere, and sanctimonious woman who converted him not 
only to a more moral and religious, but to a much duller 
and more monotonous way of living. Still there was the 
crowd of courtiers, now soberly dressed and fashionably 
devout ; and still the fountains played and the gardens 
grew in beauty, for the King never lost his pride and 
delight in them. The public of Paris were admitted at 
times to view this marvellous creation, which seemed to 
all good subjects of King Louis a new wonder of the 
world. 

We may picture to ourselves an afternoon in early 
summer, when the gardens and park were at their loveliest, 
when roses and jasmine lightened the green thickets that 
made a rich background for statuary white from the 
sculptor's studio " all heathen gods and nymphs so 
fair " ; when whiffs of scented air stole over from the 
clipped lime alleys and rustled the tops of the tall trees ; 
when the many fountains scattered diamonds of light in 
the sunshine that glowed on the wide parterres and marble 
terraces, and birds retired to sing softly in depths of shade, 
leaving bolder mortals to roast in the glare. Louis XIV 
had a royal contempt for extremes of heat and cold, and 
the courtly crowd that waited for his Majesty on the 
terrace was bound at least to pretend equal indifference. 

195 



Stories from French History 

Monsieur Jean de La Bruyere, the Parisian philosopher, 
strolling by with his book under his arm, laughed at the 
crimson faces, the fluttering fans, here and there a silk 
handkerchief thrown over hat and wig to protect the 
wearer from sunstroke till the palace doors should be 
thrown open and with the coming of the King strict 
etiquette should rule once more. 

" I would say, let us walk down to the groves yonder," 
said La Bruyere to his companion. " But as you, Mon- 
sieur Bart, desire to pay your respects to his Majesty, we 
must not risk losing your moment. You say it is long 
since you saw him ? ' 

" Years, monsieur." 

" You have not shown yourself at Court for years ? Is 
it possible ! What rashness ! ' 

The other man laughed. His dark, sunburnt face, his 
clear blue eyes, slightly narrowed from watching cloudy 
horizons, his frank mouth, his somewhat ill-fitting wig and 
coat, his swinging, fearless gait, all seemed to point him 
out as a sailor home from the sea. 

" I have been better employed," he said. " Rashness ? 
On my life, I don't understand you." 

" Say rather, otherwise employed, for, saving your 
presence, you do not understand the Court," answered 
La Bruyere : but his keen eyes and sarcastic lips spoke 
admiration for the man walking by his side. "Who in 
this nation does not know Jean Bart ! ' he said. 
" Who does not know the gallant corsair who earned 
his command in the King's fleet by such daring feats of 
arms that Dutch and English lied before him ! Truly 
better employed than this multitude of needy nobles 
you see haunting Versailles ! But it is they, not men 
like you, unseen at Court, who have now the ear of 
his Majesty. May I ask, monsieur, have you secured 
19G 



Versailles 

the good offices, of some powerful courtier to present you 
to-day ? " 

'' No, monsieur. The King once thanked me and gave 
me a gold chain. He will remember me." 

' You have a fine confidence ! ' La Bruyere gazed at 
him curiously. "We will hope it may not deceive you. 
But royal memories are short, and there is always the 
danger that his Majesty may say of you : ' He is a man I 
never see ! ' That has been the fate of many a man of 
standing in the country and many a soldier home from 
the wars. I have noted it in my book you have read 
it, monsieur, by chance ? In my chapter on the Court 
you might remember these words : ' Se derober d la cour 
un seul moment, c'est y renoncer.' 

' I have had no time for reading. I take it from you 
that this crowd is the Court. My business is not with the 
Court, but with the King." 

' I have warned you, monsieur. The rays of the Roi 
Soleil shine only 

' Then no wonder that the kingdom is starving, as they 
tell me, and the armies and the fleets are discouraged." 

M. de La Bruyere was on the edge of offence. His book, 
his famous Caracteres, that brilliant satire on human nature 
and society which had already won him a notice not always 
flattering and was presently to admit him to the Academy 
-this benighted barbarian from the high seas did not 
even deign to make excuse for his ignorance of it ! The 
book was insulted : its author pressed it more closely to 
his heart. He had carried it from the Prince de Conde's 
hotel at Versailles, where he had his lodging as the former 
tutor of the heir of that House, intending to offer it to the 
famous sailor Jean Bart, with whom he had made ac- 
quaintance by a happy chance, and who had pleasantly 
accepted his company in this visit to the gardens. 

197 



Stories from French History 

"Nay," thought Jean de La Bruyere, " I do not cast 
my pearls before swine ! ' 

And yet he was too clever and too honest to be really 
angry. He guessed in Jean Bart his own scorn of the 
lying unrealities of the world in which he lived. They 
were kindred spirits, though the one brought clean sea- 
breezes where the other used the dissecting knife. 

They went on to talk of the gardens, which inspired 
Jean Bart with more wonder than admiration. Frankly, 
their perfection of classical regularity was tiresome to him. 
La Bruyere smiled and marvelled at the bad taste which 
could prefer a plain of tumbling green waves to the pros- 
pect before them the careless prodigality of Nature to 
the ingenious, proportioned work of man. He was glad, 
however, to satisfy the sailor's curiosity as to how the 
gardens had been made, and how the lavish supply of 
water supplying these lakes and basins and canals had 
been brought into this forest country. It was a long story 
of tremendous labour, perseverance, engineering genius. 
The work had cost millions in money. Its unhealthiness 
had cost a terrible sum in human lives. There was a 
time the thing had been hushed up and hidden when 
every night saw carts laden with dead bodies of labourers 
on their way from the half-built chateau and half-made 
gardens at Versailles. 

La Bruyere broke off suddenly. " Monsieur, here is 
the King ! ' He thought, but did not say : " Now, Master 
Corsair, your pride will have a fall ! ' 

All hats were swept off. The bowing and curtseying 
crowd on the terrace was like a field of tall wheat when the 
wind blows over it. Down from the chateau came a small 
group of noble and princely personages, bare-headed, all 
but one. He was a man in late middle age, not tall, but 
graceful and majestic, with the proud profile of some 
198 



Versailles 

Roman Emperor. He was plainly dressed in brown, with 
a touch of gold embroidery ; diamond buckles in shoes 
and hat his only jewellery. His hat, curled round with 
white feathers, was edged with Spanish point lace. 

There were salutations. The King either touched his 
hat or lifted it ; said a gracious word or two. Once at 
least his manner was of marked coldness, when some 
courtier, not high in favour, presented an evidently rustic 
gentleman. " I do not know him," were the words on 
the King's lips. Nothing was lost on M. de La Bruyere, 
standing in the background and waiting with an amused 
smile to see the discomfiture of his late companion. 

" What is the fellow doing ? Is he mad ? " 

As the King, crossing the terrace between the fountains 
and their groups of statues, approached the broad flight 
of steps leading down to the parterre and fountain of 
Latona, Jean Bart the sailor advanced suddenly, almost 
pushing aside bowing courtiers, whose hands flew to their 
swords, and dropped on one knee before Louis XIV. For 
a moment the King was startled ; his fingers clenched his 
cane, and the officer of the guard made a hasty step 
forward. 

" Aha ! Master Presumptuous ! " muttered La Bruyere. 

Then what happened? The King, frowning a little, 
stared into that face browned by the sea, and the corsair's 
bold blue eyes stared back. Jean Bart flung open his coat 
and showed the heavy gold chain and medal which those 
royal hands had slipped round his neck long ago, after the 
ocean free-lance with his one small ship had captured for 
King Louis seventeen Dutch vessels, one a frigate of 
twenty-four guns. 

" My admiral Jean Bart ! " said the King, with a smile 
such as his Court seldom saw : and he gave his hand to the 
sailor to kiss. " Rise, Monsieur 1'Amiral, and join us in 

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Stories from French History 

/ 

our walk," he said. " You have much to tell me, and I 
have much to show you. This Versailles, monsieur, has 
been created since your first victories." 

'' An amazing creation, sire," said Jean Bart. 
' I shall presently show you what you will admire still 
more," said Louis XIV. 

The eyes that followed him and his new courtier were 
curious, envious, displeased. Even M. de La Bruyere, 
attending the royal party at a humble distance, knew 
a touch of disappointment ; for no man, certainly no 
philosopher, likes to be proved wrong. 

The King led the corsair all the way down the stately, 
statue-guarded avenue that led to the great fountain of 
Apollo and then to the Grand Canal. Among a crowd of 
elegant boats, white-sailed, richly carved, painted, and 
gilded, the muzzles of her little brass guns flashing in the 
sunshine, floated a beautifully built miniature man-of- 
war. Her silken banners drooping, her high decks and 
galleries manned by curly-locked sailors in correct costume, 
she lay there, reflected in the trembling water, waiting his 
Majesty's commands. 

" You see, Monsieur 1'Amiral," said King Louis, with a 
wave of his hand, " the navy is not forgotten at Versailles. 
My fleet is not all on the high seas." 

Jean Bart laughed aloud. The courtiers bit their lips, 
exchanging glances. 

" I see that your Majesty has named your new frigate 
The Great Ship ! " 

1 You have a better name to suggest ? ' 

'With permission, yes, sire. The Prctiy Toy!" said 
Jean Bart. 



200 



CHAPTER XXI 

PEASANTS AND SMUGGLERS 

II y a des miseres sur la terre qui saisissent le c<zur. 

JEAN DE LA BRUYERE 

Chateau, maison, cabane, 
Nous sont ourerts parlout : 
Si la hi nous condamne, 
Le peuple nous absout ! 

P. J. DE BERANGER 

THAT long reign of seventy-two years left France 
tired. Dark clouds obscured the setting of the 
Roi Soleil. Royal princes died, one after another, 
and a little child five years old was alone left to 
succeed his great-grandfather. But long before the 
King's death glory and prosperity were deserting his 
kingdom. Most of his great men soldiers, statesmen, 
divines, poets, philosophers were already dead. The 
disastrous revoking of Henri IV's tolerant Edict of Nantes 
had deprived France of hundreds of thousands of her 
best citizens : Huguenot ministers, nobles, merchants and 
artisans, soldiers and seamen. Foreign wars meant defeat 
instead of victory. The ever-increasing taxes which 
supported the whole unwieldy structure of the State in 
its ever-growing extravagance became harder and harder 
to raise in a country which afforded such terrible sights as 
this, beheld by Jean de La Bruyere near the end of the 
seventeenth century as he travelled the roads of Northern 
or Eastern France. 

One sees certain wild animals, male and female, 

201 



K 



Stories from French History 

scattered about the country, black, livid, and burnt by 
the sun ; bowed to the earth which they dig and turn with 
invincible perseverance. They have a sort of articulate 
speech, and when they rise to their feet they show a 
human face : in fact, they are men. At night they retire 
into dens, where they live on black bread, water, and roots. 
They spare other men the labour of tilling, sowing, and 
reaping in order to live, and they deserve some share of the 
food they have sown." 

These were the people who paid the taxes ! 

Even if La Bruyere's picture was of a specially poor 
district in a famine year, such years recurred only too 
often. We know, for instance, that the saintly Arch- 
bishop Fenelon dared to say to Louis XIV, in 1709 : ' ' Your 
people are dying of hunger. Instead of dragging money 
out of your poor people, you should support and feed 
them." 

And the records of several other years are equally sad. 
Still, writers of the eighteenth century do show another 
side fairly prosperous farms and peasants decently 
clothed and fed, enjoying life with the merry stoicism of 
their nation as long as they can cheat or satisfy the 
absentee landlord and the ravenous tax-gatherer. 

It would be a long and difficult task to describe correctly 
the state of France at this time, each province differing 
from another in burdens and laws as much as in soil and 
character. Sometimes a story throws light on something 
which seems in a way common to all the millions ruled by 
the French king. Such a story is the famous adventure 
of Jean- Jacques Rousseau. 

^Vandering one day, tired and hungry, among the 
mountains and woods of picturesque Pauphine, he asked 
for food at a lonely cottage. The solitary old peasant 
who lived there did not refuse to feed the wayfarer ; he 
202 



Peasants and Smugglers 

brought him a little skim milk and barley bread chiefly 
made of straw ; but all with a frightened and suspicious 
air, as if the traveller were an enemy. Watching his guest, 
he changed his mind : this was no enemy, open or secret, 
but a frank and pleasant young man, honestly starving. 

' I see you are a good youth," he said, " and will not 
sell or betray me." 

At first Jean- Jacques did not understand. When the 
peasant descended suddenly through a trap-door, re- 
appearing with a loaf of pure wheaten bread, a large ham, 
a fat bottle of good country wine, and when he proceeded 
to beat up eggs and butter for an omelette, and to set an 
excellent meal before the still hungry traveller, and when 
he finally refused payment with every sign of alarm, Jean- 
Jacques understood still less. 

In a few trembling words the peasant explained matters. 
He was not so ill off as his neighbours ; he had worked 
hard and his little bit of land had prospered : but if the 
tax-collectors had any reason to suspect that he was not 
dying of hunger, and that there was food and wine stored 
in his cellar, he would be a ruined man. 

' I left his house," says Rousseau, " indignant and 
deeply moved." 

This was the effect of the Crown tax known as la taille, 
first levied under Charles VII, from which the nobility 
and the official classes were exempt. 

Another story of the working of this tax comes from 
Touraine, the province so happy in its rich soil and kindly 
climate, yet which in those days hardly deserved its 
familiar name of ' the garden of France.' There, as else- 
where, the people suffered. The Marquis d'Argenson, in 
his Journal of 1750, tells how an assessor of taxes arrived 
in his village and warned the inhabitants that the taille 
was going to be much heavier. 

203 



Stories from French History 

"' He had observed the peasantry to be fatter than else- 
where, had seen fowls' feathers on their doorsteps, had 
heard that I spent money among them, and judged that 
they were comfortably off and living well. This sort of 
thing discourages the peasant, causes discontent and 
misery in the kingdom, and would make Henri Quatre 
weep, were he alive to see it." 

Other most hated taxes were those on salt and tobacco, 
and there was constant smuggling, both on the frontier 
and between the provinces with their differing tariffs, in 
defiance of the severest penalties and in spite of the army 
of agents employed by the financiers to whom Louis XIV 
and Colbert had farmed out these and other monopolies. 
The Farmers-general made gigantic fortunes, and their 
collectors, like the publicans of old, exacted far more 
than was lawfully due to them. In these circumstances 
smuggling became an organized trade ; even, in the eyes 
of the people, an heroic profession. The risk was very 
great, for the punishments were terrible, ranging from the 
galleys to a cruel death ; but nothing deterred the bands 
of young and daring adventurers, in many of Avhosc 
families smuggling was an inherited instinct. 

Apparently this was not the case with Louis Mandrin, 
the most famous smuggler of the eighteenth century in 
France, whose life-story has been told us by M. Funck- 
Brentano. He was descended from a worthy bourgeois 
family at Saint-^ltienne in l)auphine, horse-dealers and 
general merchants, living in their own good flint-built 
house, still shown, in the central square of the little hilly 
town. ^Ve are asked to imagine young Louis as a fair, 
curly-haired choir-boy of the parish church, the cure's apt 
scholar, sitting in a corner of his father's open-fronted 
shop and listening with sharp ears to the talk of customers 
who came from distant villages and mountain-sides to 



Peasants and Smugglers 

buy drapery, wool or wax, jewellery or spirits. Thus he 
heard many tales of local misery, of the cruel doings of 
tax-gatherers, and the luxurious lives of their employers 
far away in Paris. A passion of rebellious anger filled the 
boy's heart. There was fierceness in his blood. He was 
the son not only of Francois Mandrin, the peaceable 
tradesman, but of Marguerite his wife, a woman of hot 
and revengeful temper, who once nearly murdered an un- 
lucky neighbour on the suspicion of having bewitched her 
delicate girl. Such a mother counted for much in the 
wild and short careers of her sons. 

Unluckily for Louis, his father died young, and at seven- 
teen, the eldest of nine children, he was suddenly forced 
to work for the support of them all. His mother drove 
him into various money-getting enterprises ; her self-will, 
greediness, and violence ruled the family for harm. Louis 
was a fine lad, handsome, strong, and gay ; popular with 
his neighbours, energetic at his work : in a better home 
he might have done well. As it was, he ran wild, drank, 
quarrelled, and fought; involved himself in lawsuits till 
ruin threatened his household and little Saint-Etienne 
became too hot to hold him. 

Then a chance of good fortune came his way. In 1748 
the War of the Austrian Succession was in full swing, and 
the Marechal de Belle-Isle, commanding the French army 
in Provence, needed large numbers of mules to carry stores 
and baggage over the Alps into Italy. Louis Mandrin, a 
horse-dealer like his father, was commissioned to supply 
and to take the management of a ' brigade ' of harnessed 
mules for this purpose. He set off merrily with two com- 
panions and a few stable-boys, driving his mules "a 
hundred less three ' ; down the Rhone valley and so by 
Aries and Draguignan to the sea and the frontier. 

That mountain coast of enchanting colour, then so 

205 



Stones from French History 

lonely, with its white stony tracks and torrent-beds and 
its olive and chestnut woods, was very unlike Mandrin's 
own Dauphine, where tall rocks and solemn pines climbed 
the slopes of colder mountains. But the work of transport 
from one army camp to another was hard and dangerous. 
Several mules were lost among the precipices and ravines. 
Mandrin and his ' brigade ' were called upon for feats of 
endurance which trained him admirably for his later 
adventures. He was happy, hard}-, and brave ; ready for 
months of such mountain work with his nimble beasts and 
hoping for profit that would restore his fortunes, when the 
war ended suddenly ; a fatal event for him, at least, says 
his biographer. 

One misfortune followed another. His mules died of 
disease ; and he had no compensation, since their deaths 
were not due to enemy action. Nor was he paid for 
certain provisions he had supplied to the financiers 
the Farmers-general, in fact who had contracted to feed 
the army. So Louis Mandrin returned to Saint-Eticnne 
with five poor mules to his credit, a ruined man. In 
neighbouring farms he was long remembered, crushed by 
fate at twenty-four, sitting under some wide chimney- 
place with his head in his hands, silent and sad, large tears 
dripping through his fingers. 

In a young man of Mandrin's character despair led 
naturally to desperation. And his own grievances against 
authority were terribly sharpened by the fate of two 
younger brothers, worse if not wilder fellows than himself, 
one of whom was hanged for coining false money, the other 
condemned to the galleys for robbing a church. Then came 
the drawing for the militia, a most unpopular service in 
independent Dauphine, at which Louis threw himself into 
a fray with the gendarmes in defence of friends on whom 
the lot fell. Two of the King's men were killed, and Louis 
206 



Peasants and Smugglers 

Mandrin, with others, was condemned to death. He 
escaped over the frontier into Savoy, joined a small force 
already existing of smuggling banditti, and in the depth of 
winter swooped back into Dauphine with a hundred armed 
men and a train of mules laden with contraband tobacco, 
gunpowder, wine, watches, muslins, woollen goods, and so 
forth. 

This was the first of six campaigns succeeding each 
other at short intervals during sixteen months. For that 
time Mandrin and his comrades, of whom he became at 
once the leader, were a terror to the agents of ' les Fermes ' 
in South-eastern France. Their operations extended as 
far north as Burgundy and Franche-Comte, for we hear of 
them at Pont-de-Veyle, Autun, Beaune, and Besanon, 
and as far into Central France as the Rouergue and 
Auvergne. 

Everywhere they made for the tax-gatherers' houses 
and demanded with threats the large sums of money these 
men had received for their masters, the Farmers-general. 
Contraband tobacco was offered in exchange. The 
gdpians, or ' gulls '- the south-country nickname for the 
twenty-four thousand collectors who hovered spying over 
the nation like hungry sea-birds over a rocky shore often 
put up a spirited resistance, for their calling was their 
living. Then up went muskets, out came knives, and the 
smugglers usually had the best of it. For they were 
strong, desperate, determined young men, and the officials 
of the customs were often small people living in small 
houses, protected indeed by the power of the State, but 
hated by the people they robbed and ruined. The 
smugglers who attacked them were sure of sympathy in 
town and country : secret, but none the less useful. 
Mandrin and his men could hide their bales of contraband 
goods everywhere : in farms, inns, and lonely hovels ; in 

207 



Stories from French History 

churches and presbyteries, in castles and manor-houses. 
If their frays cost lives, which frequently happened, 
magistrates were unwilling to convict them. They were 
always able to escape, flying by night on their strong little 
horses, threading pathless forests, swimming rivers, till 
they reached safety in Savoy or Switzerland. 

Then they were back again in France with fresh bales 
of goods which they sold openly to the country people, 
charging them a few pence for tobacco which the gcipians 
valued at as many francs. No wonder that the young 
Capital ne des Contrebandiers, as Mandrin styled himself, 
was a popular personage. Like Robin Hood and other 
such heroes he was polite and generous to the poor, keep- 
ing his terrors for the dishonest and grasping rich. 

" The people love this Mandrin furiously," Voltaire 
wrote to a friend. " He interests himself for those who 
are devoured by man-eaters. ... In the time of Romulus 
or of Theseus he would have been a great man ; but in 
these days such heroes are hanged." 

That tragic end seemed distant enough on a midsummer 
fair-day in 1754 when Mandrin and his troop rode into 
Rodez, the old red-towered cathedral city of the Rouergue. 

V 

A merry picture has been drawn for us of the confusion 
in the market-place, the blue-smocked peasants, the 
women with their quilled caps and lace collars, pushing 
in crowds among sheep, pigs, poultry, and vegetables for 
a better view of the band of mounted men, played into the 
town by the martial music of their own drums and fifes. 
A hundred or more, sunburnt, dusty, and way-worn, wide 
felt hats tilted over their eyes, armed with muskets, pistols, 
and knives : these, the rank and file of the smugglers, 
were followed by Mandrin and his lieutenant ; these again 
by a number of laden mules driven with wild shouts by 
men on foot. The young captain rode a grey horse ; his 
208 



Peasants and Smugglers 

hair was light and curly ; he wore a scarlet cloak and a 
fine black beaver hat caught up with gold cords. Thus 
he and his band rode triumphantly through the town to 
an open square, where the bales were boldly unpacked. 
And that day, at Rodez Fair, quite freely, to their own 
joy and in spite of gdpians, the folk of town and country 
bought cheap tobacco and muslins from Switzerland. 

Among Mandrill's pleasanter adventures was one in the 
neighbourhood of Lyons. On a hot summer afternoon 
a company of ladies and gentlemen were assembled on 
the terrace of a chateau which overhung the road at 
the entrance of a village. Their agreeable talk was inter- 
rupted by peasants running along the road, shrieking 
" Les Mandrins ! " instantly followed in a cloud of dust 
by the smuggler captain and his wild regiment. The 
ladies were startled ; but Mandrin waved his hat and cried 
to them to have no fear. Presently, having left his men 
in the village, he appeared himself at the chateau with 
two companions and a bale of Swiss embroidered muslin 
or some such tempting merchandise, which he offered to 
the ladies at a very moderate price. They were delighted, 
it seems, to cheat the Farmers-general by dealing with 
the notorious Mandrin : they found his visit pleasantly 
exciting and fed him with oranges and melons. Later in 
the evening, the village having been handsomely paid for 
entertaining the band, and handfuls of small coins having 
been scattered among the children, les Mandrins trotted 
off in another cloud of dust, leaving golden opinions behind 
them. 

But the law could not be defied for ever with impunity. 
The Farmers-general began to take the matter seriously. 
It became known that Mandrin's ambition was to push as 
far as the neighbourhood of Paris, where these rich mag- 
nates lived splendidly in beautiful country houses, to 

o 209 



Stories from French History 

seize a few of them and carry them across the frontier 
as hostages. To such a daring brigand nothing seemed 
impossible. The Farmers-general were alarmed. They 
had troops of their own in constant pursuit of Mandril i ; 
when these failed to catch him the royal troops were called 
into action : regiments of dragoons scoured the country 
and watched and guarded the frontiers. The people 
began to be frightened : it was all very well for smugglers 
to fight tax-gatherers, but fighting the King's own soldiers 
was a different affair. Public sympathy began to fail 
Mandrin ; and it must be added that he was becoming 
unworthy of it. On many occasions his men behaved 
brutally and he did not check them ; in fact, during the 
last months he was more often drunk than sober. The 
end was not far off. 

Mandrin was caught at a favourite haunt of his in Savoy, 
the old Chateau de Rochefort, near Pont de Beauvoisin, 
where the river Guiers was the boundary between France 
and the Sardinian kingdom. Spies tracked him and the 
royal troops arrested him and carried him into France : 
an unlawful act strongly resented by the Court of Sardinia. 
But diplomatic stormings came too late to save the arch- 
enemy of the Farmers-general. There was no delay in 
Mandrin's punishment. He was tried at Valence, and 
executed there with the extremest cruelty of the time on 
26th May, 1755. 

Not forty years later, at the height of the Revolutionary 
Terror, twenty-eight Farmers-general, bad and good 
together, perished in one day under the knife of the 
guillotine. 

Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges. 



210 



CHAPTER XXII 
CHATEAU AND VILLAGE 

Un nid sous lefeuillage, 
Un manoir dans hs bois ! 

VICTOR Huoo 

Heureux villageois, dansons : 
Sautez, filhttes 
Et r/arrons ! 
UniAsez rosjoyeux sons, 

Musettes 
Et chansons ! 

P. J. DE BERANUER 

IN the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the old 
feudal nobility of France, as distinguished from 
those clever men who had been ennobled for services 
to the State and those rich men who had bought their 
honours, were divided into two classes, of the Court and 
of the country. By no means every ancient name was to 
be found among the crowd that waited on Louis XIV 
or degraded itself at the far worse Court of his great- 
grandson. Many nobles lived and died on their estates : 
they were often poor enough in spite of their privileges ; 
but these were not the men who restored or added 
to their fortunes by marrying into the rich bourgeoisie 
after the example of many of the more worldly-wise 
noblesse de cour ; nor were these the men whose selfish- 
ness helped to bring about the Revolution. Proud, 
remote, shabby, and plain, stiff without and gay within, 
the provincial seigneur, the poor country gentleman of 
France in the reign of Louis XV, dwelt among his 

211 



Stories from French History 

peasant tenants and usually had their respect, if not 
their affection. 

Let us look at a village in the west of France and the 
old chateau or manor that watched over it ; the manor 
whose gates and walls had been its strong refuge and 
defence in times when wars and marauding bands swept 
the country. In those times feudal privileges were the 
fighting man's reward for protecting the helpless ; and 
still, in the eighteenth century, in places far away from 
the talk of towns, it was only a few here and there, more 

%7 

thoughtful than their fellows, who found it strange that the 
sci^ni'iir should take toll of their corn and wine, already so 
heavily taxed by the Government, that his pigeons and 
his game should live on their harvest, that their flour 
should be ground in his mill and shared with him. These 
and other such ancient customs had existed for many 
centuries ; they almost seemed to be in the natural order 
of things. One of the most oppressive, the system of un- 
paid labour known as la coiree, had by this time almost 
died out on private estates, though the King's officials 
still enforced it for the making and mending of roads. 
Many other powers once exercised by the xt'/<>iu'ur had 
also vanished : he was no longer the ruler and judge, the 
chief magistrate, the terror of evil-doers : all this pro- 
vincial authority had passed to the royal Intendants, and 
in many a village the syndic, or head of the parish assembly, 
the tax-collector, even the schoolmaster, man of many 
offices, sexton, sacristan, choir-leader, was a person of 
more actual importance than either the cure or the land- 
owner. This " high and powerful " gentleman, as he was 
described in documents and on his tombstone, was some- 
times poorer than his farmers. In many cases he had 
little beyond his old feudal rights, a thankless possession ; 
and his local influence depended largely on his character. 
212 



Chateau and Village 

Look along the valley. The road, grass-grown and 
deeply rutted, wanders down past uneven groups of low 
white cottages to the ford where the stream ripples across 
it, then gradually climbs again between the wooded hills. 
The cottages are thatched, a few slated, but all of one storey, 
except for a garret in the roof. Outside, each has a shed or 
two, the better ones a dunghill outside the door ; the little 
farms are approached by a flagged pathway and shaded by 
walnut or chestnut trees. On a green mound half-way 
through the village stands the church with its old round apse 
and tall tower, from which three deep-toned bells, rung 
by an active schoolmaster, are constantly pealing. They 
chime or clang for all services, for the angelus at morning, 
noon, and evening ; for births, deaths, and marriages ; for 
alarms of fire or robbery ; in a thunderstorm ; to drive away 
evil spirits; at the hour of curfew (couvre-feu), when all 
honest folk must be indoors and all fires and lights put 
out. They and the church clock order the life of the 
village. 

On one side of the road the ground behind the cottages 
slopes to low meadows and the stream : on the other, it 
climbs to the edge of the forest, where sheep feed in a 
guarded flock : and here too on the hill- side are the small 
sunny vineyards and cornfields and vegetable patches 
which help the people to live. A short by-road turns 
down to the stream and crosses it by a rough bridge. The 
dark water moves slowly between rustling poplars ; king- 
fishers dart across the shade with a flash of blue. Then 
an avenue of large old walnut-trees climbs the slope to the 
gates of the chateau. The white walls of the courtyard, 
built, like the house, of country stone, are ruinous and over- 
grown with ivy ; the plaisance, which used to extend be- 
yond them, laid out by a great-grandfather in the days of 
Louis XIV, is neglected now ; a few roses bloom, wild and 

213 



Stories from French History 

straggling, smothered in grass and leaves ; the yew and 
box hedges, once trimly clipped, have lost their form. 

Though not very large as such houses go, and with no 
great extent of stables, kennels, dovecot towers, and the 
like, this ancient manor has a stately air as it stands with 
its back to the woods and moors, its high grey roofs and 
weather-cocks shining. Drawing nearer, we see that the 
long outside shutters, half closed against the sun, are hang- 
ing by one hinge, and that many birds have built their 
nests about the cracked windows and crumbling chimneys. 
Weeds are growing in the courtyard, where an old dog lies 
asleep in a corner of shade. 

Monsieur le Baron and his family are to be found in the 
large hall, the centre of the house, which serves them for 
all purposes. Anciently there was an immense state bed 
in one corner, removed by civilization into an adjoining 
room. But the hall is still medieval enough, with its 
enormous carved and emblazoned chimney-piece, its 
ceiling of painted beams veiled by cobwebs, its paved 
floor, high-backed chairs, and chests of walnut wood set 
against walls hung partly with old stamped leather, partly 
with worn tapestry, partly with quaint portraits of 
ancestors. Nothing of the fine art and luxury of the 
eighteenth century has penetrated here. 

But the Baron and his family are much more alive than 
their surroundings, and in this hour of repose after the 
twelve-o'clock dinner they have many matters to discuss, 
while Monsieur walks up and down in his plain suit and 
leather gaiters the syndic is better dressed on a holy-day 
and Madame with her two daughters sits working cross- 
stitch to replace the ragged seats of the chairs. The only 
son, a young fellow of eighteen, wears the only gloomy 
countenance : and yet the next day is to see him on his 
way to Versailles, where a great noble, a distant cousin, 

214 



ay'j-JftJ^W dw^ttlS&fWi-aP&b 




An Old French Chateau 
M. Meredith Williams 



Stories from French History 

has half promised him a small place in the household of 
the Dauphin, lately married to an Austrian princess and 
soon to be King Louis XVI. Perhaps young Charles is 
quick enough to guess what his first experience of the gay 
world will be, with country manners, country servants, 
country clothes, country horses, and the old-fashioned 
learning picked up from the cure by a lad whom two old 
peasants had held at the font. 

His mother's dark eyes rest upon him with a touch of 
the sweet mockery that enchanted bygone Courts in her 
ancestresses. 

' Charles will marry the daughter of a Farmer-general," 
she softly says. "Do not be sad, my child. Think how 
your rich wife will transform the old home ! We shall all 
grow fat in her shadow." 

' Pardon, madame ! ' the Baron turns upon her. 
' Charles will marry in his own rank. And I, at least, 
wish for no changes here." 

She smiles. 'No; you have your gun and your fishing- 
rod. Certainly they help to feed us, but they do not mend 
the roof or build up the walls." 

'' All that will last my time," says the little Baron. 
" And I have this ! ' 

He snatches up a shabby fiddle lying on a chest, and 
after a caressing touch or two begins to play a Spanish 
dance, slow, romantic, and thrilling. After a moment 
young Charles steps up bowing to his mother, and together 
they glide off along the hall in graceful movement to that 
cadence. The two young girls with entwined arms follow 
them, and presently the Baron himself is both playing 
and leading the dance, in and out of the long sunbeams 
on the floor. 

At length he stops suddenly, saying: "Do not fatigue 
yourselves ; you must dance with the village later." 
216 



Chateau and Village 

And to be sure, when the holy-day is a few hours 
older the harsh music of peasant pipers fills the air, 
and men, women, and children follow it up the avenue. 
All wear their best clothes : the men are well dressed 
in cloth, with deerskin waistcoats and silver buttons, 
their long hair tied with ribbon under wide felt hats; 
the women in serge of different colours, silk aprons, silver 
chains and crosses, starched caps of the local pattern. 

Monsieur le Baron adjusts his wig and goes out into 
the courtyard to receive them with ceremony. He and 
his family join in the country dances, which with a 
few breathless pauses last on into the late evening, till 
shadows are long and the schoolmaster slips away to 
ring the angelus. When the older people are tired 
they stand out and talk with Monsieur and Madame and 
the cure; there are sick cows and sick children to be 
consulted on, coming marriages, all the gossip of the 
country-side, and the prospects of Monsieur Charles into 
the bargain. 

Two or three old servants look out smiling from 
kitchen and stables ; a wandering pedlar unpacks his 
wares on the terrace steps. There is an air of friendly 
simplicity and harmless chatter ; even dark and sour 
faces, for these are not absent, are lightened of their 
discontent by the merry music and joy of the well-loved 
dance. 

Later they all troop away to their mud-floored cabins 
and their evening meal of milk-soup and beans and black 
bread. There is a pleasant acrid scent of burning wood 
as the smoke from their chimneys mounts into the quiet 
air. 

Young Charles cannot sleep or rest that night. Has 
he some presentiment of changes in a coming time far 
beyond any imaginable new experience of his own? 

217 



Stories from French History 

Certainly the old home and the old people have never 
been so dear. He looks out from his tower window into 
a world of moonshine, deathly still but for the croak of a 
frog in the ponds below and the hoot of an owl as it flits 
between the trees in the avenue. 

In the old province one may chance nowadays to hear 
a story that brings a past century to life again. Not so 
long ago a traveller, a tourist, walking down in a summer 
evening from the tableland into the valley, passed the 
ruined fragments of a chateau or manor-house. Part of it 
had been made into a farmhouse, now deserted ; part had 
been destroyed by fire and was a heap of blackened stones 
overgrown with weeds and briars. Crossing the old court- 
yard to gain the road that led to the village, the tourist, 
who had been struck by the eerie loneliness of the place, 
suddenly became aware that it was not so lonely. In 
the twilight, among the broken stones and the weeds, 
he saw groups of strangely dressed people, eighty to a 
hundred of them, dancing round and round, up and down, 
in figures equally strange. There was no sound, except 
the evening wind that stirred the walnut leaves. The 
tourist went on his way marvelling, for he knew that 
those peasants with their ancient costumes and their 
quaint country dances must be nigh on a hundred and 
iil'ty years old. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

TWO GOOD MEN 

Ah ! si de telles mains, justement aouveraines, 
Toujours de cet empire avaient tenu fes renes ! 
L'tquite dairvoyante await regne sur nous, 
Le/aible await ose respirer prcs de vous. 

ANDRE CHENIER 

Quand je montai sur ce trone edatant 

Que me destina ma naissance, 
Mon premier pas dans ce paste brillant 

Fut un edit de lienfaisance. 

MARQUISE DE TRAVANET 

HE was plain ' Monsieur Turgot ' to the Court, and 
there was a gulf of difference between him and 
the crowd of elegant, luxurious, privileged nobles 
who surrounded the young sovereigns, Louis XVI and 
Marie-Antoinette. In the point of family, however, he 
was no upstart and no outsider. He was a gentleman of 
an old Norman house, and his ancestors, called Turgot 
des Tourailles, Turgot de Saint-Clair, or by some other 
territorial name, had served the State for at least two 
hundred years. His father had been created a marquis by 
Louis XV as a reward for his services as Provost of the 
Merchants of Paris. While holding this office he under- 
took and carried out a vast plan for draining the unhealthy 
quarters of the city. He was a man of high cultivation, 
the friend of all that was most enlightened in the France 
of his day. He died a Councillor of State. 

Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, the youngest and most 
famous of the Provost's sons, was intended for the Church 

219 



Stories from French History 

and was known in his youth as the Abbe dc Laulne, but 
tin- influences of the time, Voltaire, the philosophers, the 
literary unions and the brilliant men he met there, turned 
his mind against an ecclesiastical eareer. He was nt the 
kind of man who could lightly take Orders while uncon- 
vinced, or lead the life of many a courtly young cleric in a 
society ruled by Louis XV. Grave, shy. and awkward, 
he was a keen observer and a careful student of France 
and her history. He longed to administer public affairs. 
to fight a thousand abuses. While still a young man. he 
was appointed by the King Intcndant of Limoges, a poor 
district overburdened with taxes and crushed by privileged 
landlords. Here, at the cost of much unpopularity- 
except among the peasantry Turgot trained himself by 
thirteen years of hard work for the object of his dreams, 
the great reform that should transfigure his country. 

At last his day was come. He found himself at Court, 
Controller-General of Finance, which practically meant 
Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister in one, 
for the actual head of the Government under Louis XVI, 
M. de Maurcpas, a worthy and amiable old courtier, was 
very little of a statesman. 

The Court was at Compiegne when the new Minister 
laid his plans before the new King. We can imagine 
the two men and their surroundings. Turgot was a 
man in the prime of life, with dark eyes and a strong. 
resolute countenance. A judge of faces might have 
guessed him over-confident in his own ideas and in- 

o 

tolerant of those of others. Louis XVI was an 
awkward, heavy-looking youth of twenty, in appear- 
ance perhaps the most unkingly of French kings, careless 
and untidy in his dress, with hands scratched and 
stained by the hard work he delighted in. But as to 
heart, character, and honest intention, France never had 

220 



Two Good Men 

a better king. How he differed from his grandfather 
Louis XV, for instance, is suggested by a little story told 
by M. Stryienski in his book on the eighteenth century. 

In the first days of the new reign a polite official of 
Louis XV's Court presented himself. 

" Who are you ? " said Louis XVI. 

41 Sire, I am called La Ferte." 

"What do you want?" 

" Sire, I am come to take your orders." 

"What for?" 

" I am in charge of of the Menus 

" What are the Menus ? " 

" Sire, the Menus plaisirs (amusements) of your 
Majesty." 

" My amusement is to walk in the park. I don't want 
you," said Louis XVI, and turned his back on the 
gentleman. 

Now, in a small room at the palace of Compiegne, 
decorated with paintings and mosaic, looking out into the 
August sunshine of gardens laid out under Loufs XV, the 
young King met a man who offered him no personal 
amusement, but called upon him to realize the state of 
his country and by resolute self-sacrifice to work a great 
reform. Turgot knew well that his success in his new 
office depended on the support of the King, and he was 
not without misgivings, frankly expressed to his friends. 
The nearer he drew to his task of transforming the 
State, of establishing equal justice for all, the more 
formidable did it appear : a true labour of Hercules. 

And now he found himself face to face with the good, 
stupid boy of clumsy manners who was the centre of all 
he wished to destroy ; all the heartless gaiety, luxury, 
and Court extravagance inherited from Louis XV ; all the 
mad race to destruction of an already bankrupt State. 

221 



Stories from French History 

' I hear that you did not wish to be Controller-General," 
the King said to the new Minister. 

Turgot replied by saying something of his inexperience 
of so difficult an office, adding : " But it is not to the King 
I give myself ; it is to the upright man." 

Young Louis took both his hands. " You shall not be 
disappointed. I give you my word of honour. I will 
enter into all your views, and I will always support you in 
any bold steps you may have to take." 

Then M. Turgot, highly encouraged, laid his plans 
before the King. They were wide and sweeping. Privi- 
leges were to vanish : taxation was to become fair and 
equal ; there was to be free trade between the provinces, 
especially in com and wine. There was to be no more 
State bankruptcy, no more borrowing, no more laying on 
of fresh taxes. And above all things there must be no 
more extravagance. Looking his King straight in the 
face, Turgot said : 

" Your Majesty, economy is a necessity. And it is you 
yourself who must set the example. No more money 
gifts to be bestowed on your courtiers ; no more expensive 
favours drawn from the misery of others. I must fight 
against your own generosity and that of those dear to 
you. I shall be feared, hated, and calumniated at Court : 
even the people may be deceived into distrust of me. Your 
Majesty will remember that I rely solely on your personal 
justice and kindness." 

And King Louis said again : " Monsieur Turgot, you 
have my confidence." 

So Turgot set to work to regenerate France. But like 
so many reformers with a high ideal, he left human nature 
out of account. And French human nature at that time, 
in spite of much philanthropic talk d la Rousseau, was by 
no i nc; i us prepared for unselfish action. In unexpected 
222 



Two Good Men 

ways Turgot found himself opposed to his countrymen, 
and not alone to the Court and the richer classes. The 
people themselves were alarmed by the new law as to free 
trade in corn, believing that it meant exportation and less 
food for the country. This belief was encouraged by 
Turgot's enemies and strengthened by two bad harvests 
which kept up high prices and threatened famine. Riots 
in all parts of the country, even in Paris and under the 
King's windows at Versailles, did not shake Turgot's belief 
in himself or that of King Louis in his Minister ; but they 
foreshadowed his fall. 

He did not add to his popularity by proposing that the 
young King should be crowned in Paris, at Notre-Dame, 
instead of in the cathedral of Reims, the sacred city of the 
monarchy, where nearly all the French kings had been 
crowned. A mere matter of economy : but Turgot did 
not allow for national sentiment, strong in 1775, even 
though M. de la Ferte and his crowd of underlings a 
coronation being reckoned among the Menus plaisirs 
of royalty were probably the chief persons who found 
these expensive ceremonies to their advantage. On this 
occasion Turgot did not have his own way. Louis XVI 
was crowned at Reims with all the magnificence of a 
bygone time. 

The Finance Minister followed his determined course, 
making enemies at every turn. We may fancy him at 
one of the Court balls or -fetes, which he did his utmost, by 
pulling the royal purse-strings tight, to deprive of their 
splendour. There he stands, a dignified figure, soberly 
dressed, speaking little, for men avoided his severe 
presence and candid words. Among the throng at Court 
he had, besides the King, only one friend and supporter, 
M. de Malesherbes, the Minister of the Household, 
who honestly tried to carry out his plans, and to some 

223 



Stories from French History 

extent, though a person of pleasanter manners, shared 
his unpopularity. 

Those Court balls were a wonderful sight of gorgeous 
colour and flashing jewellery and waving, towering 
feathers. Here and at the great fetes were to be seen 
those ' monumental ' head-dresses which French society 
adopted for a short time ; a fashion never likely to be 
revived. Women's hair, piled up in a snowy powdered 
mass, was crowned by, for instance, a miniature English 
garden, " with grass-plots and streams " ; or real flowers 
kept fresh in small glass bottles " curved to the shape of 
the head " ; or a bird hovering over a rose ; or a shep- 
herd, his dog, and his flock ; or some other original design. 
Among these strange figures in hoops, wigs, and masks, 
tall, fair, graceful, high-spirited, proud yet simple, a 
' white soul ' in a Court of greatly mixed elements, moved 
the young Queen of France, Marie- Antoinette. 

She was a frank, generous girl, and there are many 
stories of her kindness of heart to prove that she was very 
capable of being touched by the sufferings of the nation 
and of understanding the need for reform. ' Monsieur 
Turgot is an honest man," she said. But she saw nothing 
with her own eyes ; she was told little of the truth ; and 
most of the influences round her were strong in a contrary 
direction. She loved beauty and gaiety and the pleasures 
that were heaped at her feet ; and she was a child of 
eighteen. 

Her friends, nearly all of them for there were noble 
exceptions her merry, frivolous, mischievous ladies, her 
smiling, witty gentlemen, were bitterly opposed to changes 
and retrenchments which touched them personally by 
crippling the royal power of scattering money and 
favours. Many well-paid and useless offices were abolished 
by Monsieur Turgot. His restraining hand was felt 
224 



Two Good Men 

everywhere, but especially among the Queen's friends ; 
and in these young days of hers Marie-Antoinette was 
passionately devoted to her friends. 

A few months found Turgot's forebodings justified. 
His reforms were faced by the opposition of all the great 
people in the kingdom, of the Parliament, of the financiers, 
of the Church, of the Court, and to a certain extent of the 
Queen. Before two years had passed both he and Males- 
herbes fell, for Louis XVI, with all his brave promises 
and good intentions, was not strong enough to fight 
against such a phalanx of enemies. The King was sorry. 

' It is only Monsieur Turgot and I who love the people," 
he said regretfully. 

;t Never forget, sire," Turgot wrote in his last letter 
to the young master who had failed him, " that weak- 
ness laid Charles I's head on the block ; that weakness 
made Charles IX cruel ; that under Henri III it was the 
cause of the League ; that it made a crowned slave of 
Louis XIII ; that it brought about all the misfortunes 
of the late reign." 

So France rolled on her ancient way for a few more 
years, while dark, red-flushed clouds, the curtain behind 
which the sun of the Capet monarchy was soon to set, 
climbed swiftly on the horizon. 



225 



CHAPTER XXIV 
THE QUEEN AND HER SERVANTS 

Onf. was my page, a lad I reared and bore ivith day by day. 

CHRISTINA G. ROSSETTI 

Richard ! 6 mon Roi ! 
L'univers t'abandonne, 
Et sur la terre il n'est que moi 
Qui xint(-res*e it ta personne. 

MICHEL JEAN SEUAINE 

ONE day in the summer of 1776 the summer of 
Turgot's fall Queen Marie-Antoinette was driv- 
ing with her ladies in the forest country near 
Versailles. The royal coach with its outriders was 
passing through a tiny village, a cluster of hovels 
that crouched about the road in the shelter of the 
great trees. A little boy three years old ran out to see 
the sight and was knocked down by the leading horse 
before the postilion had time to avoid him. Loud 
shrieks : an old peasant woman rushes out from her 
door to seize the child, whom the royal grooms have 
already rescued unhurt from under the prancing horse's 
feet. One of the gentlemen-in-waiting has dismounted 
and taken him in his arms : the Queen, rising up in her 
coach, stretches out both hands to the old dame in eager 
kindness. 

" The child is safe, mother ! All is well. He is your 
grandson ? Is his mother living ? ' 

" No, madame. My daughter died last winter, leaving 
me with the five children on my hands." 

226 



The Queen and her Servants 

" I will provide for them all. As to this one, will you 
give him to me ? I have none of my own he will be a 
comfort to me will you consent ? ' 

" Madame is too kind. The children are lucky but 
Jacques is a very naughty boy. I doubt if he will stay 
with you." 

Poor little Jacques, fair-haired and rosy, the picture of 
a peasant child in his woollen cap, red frock, and sabots, 
was lifted into the coach and taken screaming on the 
Queen's lap. 

" He will soon be accustomed to me," said Marie- 
Antoinette, and after a few more kind words she ordered 
her coachman to drive on. 

But the story goes that the drive had to be consider- 
ably shortened, so loud were Jacques' shrieks and so 
violent the kicks he bestowed on the Queen and her ladies. 
When the gentleman-in-waiting carried him into the 
palace by the way, we have met this young man before 
as Monsieur Charles, the son of a certain chateau in the 
woods, now and ever the devoted servant of Marie- 
Antoinette, Dauphiness and Queen the screams and 
kicks went on, and it was a miserable, frightened, shriek- 
ing child whom the Queen led into her own rooms, to the 
great surprise of all her household. 

Two or three days in the care of a kind nurse worked 
wonders. Little Jacques became aware that he was 
amazingly well off. He soon ceased to cry and struggle. 
The beautiful child who was brought to the Queen at nine 
o'clock every morning in a white frock trimmed with lace, 
a pink sash with silver fringe, and a feathered hat, might 
have been the little prince she so earnestly longed for. 
Jacques, now known by the more elegant name of 
Armand, soon forgot his grandmother and his brothers 
and sisters and their forest home. He became the 

227 



Stories from French History 

life of that childless household, a merry, happy boy, 
the Queen's petted plaything. Her waiting-woman who 
tells the story says that he breakfasted and dined with 
her Majesty, sometimes even with the King. He was 
brought up in this fashion till the Queen's eldest child, 
born two years later, was old enough to be carried 
into the royal apartments. After that his position 
was changed, but the Queen's kindness never failed : 
he was educated at Versailles and always employed in 
the palace. 

When the great events of 1789, following on one another, 
were leading France on her way to changes then un- 
dreamed of, this young Armand, the Queen's adopted 
child and servant, was a lad of sixteen. And of all the 
spreaders of evil reports about Marie-Antoinette, of all 
those who repaid her goodness with black ingratitude and 
treachery, of all the jealous, mean, cowardly characters 
who threw themselves into revolution for fear of being 
compromised by the debt they owed to royalty and 
there were many of them this young peasant was one of 
the worst. It might have been kinder to leave him in his 
grandmother's roadside hovel. 

It was on those famous days, 5th and 6th October, 1789, 
that he showed his true quality. The Revolution had 
begun. The States-General, lawfully representing the 
French people, had been summoned after an interval of a 
hundred and seventy-five years to meet at Versailles, and 
had transformed themselves into the National Assembly. 
The old State prison of the Bastille had fallen, symbol of 
tyranny, scene of legends now exploded. Reforms both 
wide and deep had been agreed on, privileges voluntarily 
resigned ; the King had accepted changes which disarmed 
and fettered the monarchy, and had he been such a man 
as Henri Quatre, a popular leader rather than a driven 
228 



The Queen and her Servants 

victim, the ' principles of 1789 ' might have triumphed 
without the bloodshed and wholesale destruction of follow- 
ing years. His own weakness and the loyalty of his friends 
and officers, who justly feared the violence of the Assembly, 
hurried on catastrophes which suited the ends of his 
enemies ; and the most powerful, the most cunning of 
these were to be found in his own circle. The men of the 
Terror, into whose hands the Revolution fell it is the way 
of revolutions were not yet rulers of France. Modern 
evidence goes to show that Philippe, Duke of Orleans, the 
King's disloyal cousin, was the chief mover in a plot to 
bring about the fall of royalty by sending the Parisian mob 
to Versailles. The cry of dear and scarce bread was an 
excuse for the ignorant, who were told that they had only to 
fetch their King and Queen to Paris and all would be well. 
Everything seemed peaceful enough on that autumn 
afternoon. At Versailles the gardens and the park lay 
quiet under a grey sky, yellow leaves drifting down from 
the tall elms, fountains playing softly. Louis XVI was 
shooting at Meudon, some miles away, tired of stormy 
debate. Marie-Antoinette was alone at her beloved 
Little Trianon. This small chateau and its surroundings, 
given to her by the King long ago, had for some years been 
her chief delight ; she had laid out the gardens in English 
fashion, with winding walks and bridges and streams, had 
built her little hamlet and toy farm, and with her children 
and ladies had lived the ' simple life ' there as often as 
Court engagements would allow. All the old eccentric 
and gorgeous fashions had disappeared. A straw hat, a 
plain muslin gown, a lace scarf: thus the Queen was 
dressed as she walked in her garden and sat in her grotto 
at Trianon on that October day, the last day of peace that 
she was ever to know in this world. As to happiness, that 
had long deserted her. The death of her eldest son, the 

229 



Stories from French History 

political troubles of the kingdom, the riots in the provinces 
and the destruction of chateaux which had already led to 
the emigration of many who should have been the King's 
loyal friends ; the deaths of others who stood to their 
posts ; the cruel insults levelled at herself and all dear 
to her : no wonder that she sat thoughtful and uneasy, 
wondering what the future had in store. Irresolute and 
inactive as the King was, what fair judge could fail to see 
that he meant to do his duty both to the nation in its new 
needs and to the old trust of monarchy, the French 
tradition handed down through so many centuries ? But 
Louis was weak, and no one knew him better or mourned 
his weakness more sadly than she. Mirabeau, a brilliant 
observer, said later that the Queen was " the only man ' 
the King had about him. 

As she sat there thinking, a letter was brought from the 
palace begging her to return at once, for the people of 
Paris were marching on Versailles with pikes and guns. 
In the King's absence there was no one to give orders : 
the Assembly was as much disturbed as the royal house- 
hold itself. 

The messenger vanished and Monsieur Charles stood 
in his place : he had attended the Queen to Trianon, as 
one of her most faithful servants and trusted friends. He 
was now nearly forty years old. and twenty years of Court 
life had altered him little : he seemed still the quiet native 
of west-country woods. His father had died, luckily for 
himself, before that rising of the peasants which left the 
old manor a blazing ruin ; his mother, with his sisters and 
brothers-in-law, had escaped with difliculty to the coast, 
whence a friendly ship's captain carried them to England. 
Charles had not married, in his own rank or any other. 

As they returned to the palace the Queen asked him 
what had become of young Armand, whose duty it would 
230 



The Queen and her Servants 

naturally have been to bring her the letter she had just 
received. 

" Madame, no one knows. Armand disappeared three 
days ago." 

" Not for the first time." 

; 'No, madame. It appears that Armand finds Paris 
irresistible." 

'What will be the end of it ! " said Marie- Antoinette 
dreamily. " He is too young, poor boy : bad companions 
may ruin him. You have often protected him, Charles, 
but I have indulged him too far." 

; ' I fear, your Majesty, he is an ungrateful little hound." 

The Queen smiled and sighed. " In these days, who 
knows ! " she said. "My servants may be wise if they 
seek more profitable service. But Armand is young to be 
faithless. These new riots may bring him back to me." 

Rain was softly beginning, twilight falling, as she went 
forward to meet the hunger-army of Paris, storming at her 
doors. 

Where was Armand ? 

Many accounts have been written, many pictures 
painted, of the march of the women from Paris to Ver- 
sailles. We see the mixed multitude, trampling through 
the mud, up and down hill, between the misty masses of 
autumn forest that covered heights and valleys to each 
horizon. Thousands of the lowest women in Paris are 
mingled with the thieves and bad characters of the city. 
A few are on horseback, most on foot, ragged, barefooted, 
an immense number hardly knowing why they are there, 
except for the wild cries of " Bread, bread ! " but carried 
along in the crowd to the rattle of drums, the rumble of 
cannon-wheels ; for not content with nourishing pikes, 
scythes, and muskets, the leaders are dragging along with 
them three guns taken from the Hotel de Ville. 

231 



Stories from French History 

The crowd is split into groups, some far wilder and more 
angry than others. Strange figures appear in these : 
rouged, powdered, painted, wearing women's gowns ; 
but men's feet in heavy shoes are plainly seen under the 
draperies. Names are given to some of these people ; 
names well known later in revolutionary history as be- 
longing to Philippe Egalit^'s crew. To some of these 
young men, no doubt, it was a merry adventure : to 
go to Versailles in such company, bent on defying the 
Assembly and insulting if nothing worse the King and 
Queen. Worse, much worse, were the threats of one 
desperate dancing group led by a tall lad with fair curls, 
whose pretty baby face might indeed have belonged to the 
slender woman whose skirts he wore. His pocket full of 
bribes, his mouth of curses, and his envious heart eager for 
some cruel vengeance on his best friends, young Armand 
headed that group of Marie-Antoinette's enemies. In 
this fashion did the riots bring him back to her. 

Under heavy rain and darkening skies the procession 
reached the Avenue de Paris, the stately approach between 
formal rows of elms which led straight to the chateau ; and 
we are told that as they advanced they shouted : " Vive le 
Roi ! " 

It was not that night, while the muddy and bedraggled 
crowd were sleeping exhausted in the streets and courts of 
Versailles or howling their threats under the windows, La 
Fayette and his National Guards arriving from Paris, 
those within the chateau wondering what the next few 
hours might bring forth it was not that night, but the 
early morning, which found Armand ready to keep his 
promise to his new friends, that he would lead them 
straight to the Queen's bed-chamber ; and once there, 
they might do what they pleased ! He was a valuable 
all}-, for he knew every turn and corner in the labyrinth of 
232 



The Queen and her Servants 

rooms and passages which surrounded the royal apart- 
ments. He knew a secret way into the gardens too, by 
which he had more than once escaped and returned. By 
that way, in the chilly dawn of the October morning, he 
led a party of savage women, real and disguised, crying 
in horrible language for the blood of Marie-Antoinette. 
They were the first to enter the chateau, the vanguard of a 
wild crowd that stormed its way in through the Courtyard 
of the Princes and up the marble staircase between the 
guardrooms and anterooms of the King and the Queen. 

All the chateau was practically unguarded, for Louis XVI 
had been advised by La Fayette to send his soldiers away, 
except a few of the bodyguard who were to keep the 
principal doors but were ordered by the King not to fire 
on the attacking crowd, or even to defend themselves. 
He still trusted his people, and was probably the only 
person in the chateau who slept that night. 

One after another the brave guards were struck down. 
Armand and his group were thundering at the doors of the 
Queen's apartments, and her defenders had already the 
worst of it when Monsieur Charles came flying to join 
them. 

" Time, time ! We must gain time ! " he cries to his 
friends ; and then he turns on the leader of the mob. 

" What, you, Armand ! You here, dressed up like a 
miserable girl ! Do the ladies from Paris know that you 
are one of her Majesty's favourite pages that she saved 
you from starvation, carried you in her arms, treated you 
as a child of her own ! So false to her, can these ladies 
know that you will not trick and deceive them ? ' 

The attack is so sudden and so strong, Charles's voice 
rings so high and clear, that for an instant the fierce 
creatures fall back. One even cries : " Then she is good, 
the Queen ? ' Armand, glancing round in sudden terror, 

233 



Stories from French History 

sees scowling faces. Then he yells out : " Lies, lies ! I 
hate the woman ! I have nothing to do with her ! ' 
swings his musket in the air and deals Monsieur Charles 
a blow on the head which lays him senseless at his feet. 
And the crowd storms on, shrieking with furious laughter. 

We know that by a few minutes gained through the 
heroic martyrdom of several of her loyal guards and 
servants Marie-Antoinette was saved from the actual 
hands of her enemies. But we can well believe that she 
tasted something of the bitterness of death when she 
looked down from the balcony of the chateau on the vast, 
swaying, wavering, terrible crowd by which she and 
Louis XVI and their children were to be escorted to Paris : 
that crowd who bore the heads of faithful men on pikes, 
and among whom, pressing on the coach, singing, laugh- 
ing, triumphant, her tired eyes may have recognized in a 
mad boy decked out like a girl the darling rosy Jacques 
who once sat upon her knee. 

Perhaps she foresaw that Armand would one day re- 
deem himself. And indeed he did so in a measure three 
years later, when, still a lad under twenty, he fought and 
fell for France under General Dumouriez at the battle of 
Jemappes. 

That tragic journey of the King and Queen to Paris was 
the end of the old monarchy of France and also of the glory 
of Versailles. 



23i 



CHAPTER XXV 

KING TERROR 

He stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form. 

ROBERT BROWNING 

Uonibre livide 

D'un peuple d'innoctnts qu'un tribunal perjide 
Precipite dans le cercueil. 

ANDRE CHEMER 

WHAT was the Reign of Terror ? 
Kings had ruled in France for many centuries, 
but of not one of their reigns could it be justly 
said that it was a reign of terror. Old times and old 
traditions made the king the father of his people. Some- 
times a bad father : selfish, luxurious, tyrannical, greedy, 
thoughtless; sometimes just, generous, and kind. But 
always the father : and even when incapable or unworthy, 
as in the case of Charles VI or of Louis XV, still the Bien- 
aime of his people. In their view he stood between them 
and their oppressors, were these either foreign enemies or 
feudal masters or the courtiers and tax-gatherers of later 
centuries. The people of France were never afraid of 
their kings, nor their kings of them. Louis XI was the 
only one to whose reign the word ' terror ' applied ; and 
then chiefly to his struggle with ambitious nobles ; citizen 
and peasant had little cause for complaint. 

When we look at the years from 1792 to 1704, during 
which ' terror ' was the ruling power in France, and try 
to understand what this vague and awful thing really 
was, it is well to glance back to those first months of the 

235 



Stories from French History 

Revolution, when France was trembling in the shadow of 
' the Great Fear.' Immediately after the destruction of 
the Bastille, which foreshadowed to France the downfall 
of her monarchy, a mysterious panic seized upon nearly 
all the provinces. It was rumoured few knew how or 
whence that armies of brigands were coming to destroy 
everything ; that there was no longer any authority or 
any safety in the kingdom. And then the peasants flew 
to arms not for the King's sake, who had lost his power, 
but for their own ; then, in their madness, led on, some 
say, by emissaries of the Revolution, they attacked the 
chateaux to revenge old grievances by burning feudal 
documents, thus thinking to protect themselves from 
future demands for service or payment. The consequence 
was that all went up in flames : papers, houses, possessions 
of every kind ; and the owners were lucky if they escaped 
with their lives. This was the work of la Grande Pcur. 

The Terror, like the Fear, was panic. It threw the 
Revolution into the hands of a few blood-stained fanatics, 
afraid of a monarchist reaction, afraid of defeat by enemies 
on the frontier, afraid of each other, afraid that France 
would come to her senses and demand an account of their 
desperate tyranny : afraid of any just comparison of the 
present with the past. Its spirit can be judged by the 
words of Robespierre : " The generation which has seen 
the old regime will always regret it ; therefore every 
individual who was more than fifteen years old in 1781) 
ought to be killed." "Destroy them all," cries Collot 
d'Herbois, another of the leaders. "Destroy them all, 
and bury them in the soil of liberty." 

All over France terror reigned, with its inseparable 
companions, cruelly and general destruction. Let us 
look especially at Paris, ' the city of light,' in those dark 
days when the old world was crumbling. At first sight 
23C 



King Terror 

you would say that she had not lost her gaiety. Her older 
streets, mostly a tangle of cobbled lanes within a circle of 
modern walls and gates, were still the " mixture of pomp 
and beggary, filth and magnificence " described by an 
English traveller not long before the fall of the Bastille. 
The south bank of the Seine was still covered with con- 
vents and colleges, old abbeys with their gardens, old 
houses of the nobility with courtyards leading into narrow 
streets. The great churches stood open, not now for re- 
ligious services, but for political meetings, balls, banquets, 
and the worship of the goddess ' Reason ' ; their ancient 
tombs were rifled, their shrines and other treasures pillaged 
or destroyed. Theatres and cafes were crowded ; shops 
were besieged by queues of people, and after their market- 
ing they danced and sang in the streets as of old, affecting 
ignorance, says an eye-witness, of the horrors they dared 
not oppose. 

This may have been possible during the massacres at 
the prisons, but was so no longer when the tall red machine, 
the guillotine, invented as a humane substitute for the 
axe and block of former ages, was doing its awful work in 
the Place Louis- Quinze, now the Place de la Revolution. 
There Louis XVI, long imprisoned with his family in the 
tower of the Temple, was executed in the presence of a 
great crowd on 21st January, 1793. The death of the good 
King committed the Revolutionary leaders to the ' dark 
frenzy ' of the Reign of Terror. 

When Terror became, literally, ' the order of the day,' 
the populace developed a kind of callous savagery. If 
they wanted bread and these were years of scarcity 
they pillaged the shops ; if they wanted amusement, what 
could be more thrilling than the daily drama of life and 
death acted before their staring eyes from the mock 
trials at the old palace on the Island, where Fouquier- 

237 



Stories from French History 

Tinville, the infamous Public Accuser, demanded the 
death penalty for batches of helpless victims, their ages 
varying between eighty-eight and sixteen, to the passage 
of the condemned through the streets and the shocking 
spectacle of the executions ? 

For the Parisian crowd the excitement of each day 
began about four o'clock in the afternoon. Sanson, the 
executioner, arrived at the Conciergerie, the prison close 
to the Palais de Justice, whither hundreds of unfortunate 
creatures of every age, every rank, and from every part of 
the kingdom had been transferred on the previous day 
from the other prisons of Paris to stand the trial at which 
acquittal was a miracle : a miracle that did not happen 
as the Terror went on deepening. They were marched 
out now into the courtyard : a few weeping, the great 
majority calm and brave ; they were crowded into the 
carts, whips were cracked, wheels creaked and groaned ; 
the slow progress through the streets began. The spring- 
less carts with their tragic loads jolted and rumbled through 
the deep uneven lanes of the Cite. Slowly, we are told, 
they gained the Pont-Neuf, where the statue of Henri IV 
stood no longer ; the Revolution had melted it down with 
the church bells to make cannon. Slowly along the quays 
and through the narrow streets they reached the old and 
busy thoroughfare, the Rue Saint-Honore. A pushing 
crowd kept them company with mockery and insulting 
songs, pressing upon them as near as the armed guards 
would permit. The windows were full of spectators, and 
for the moment the shops were closed, but as soon as the 
carts had passed on life resumed its ordinary course : 
people went about their business, some hastening to hide 
their tears in dark rooms or lonely lanes for pity was a 
crime some marketing, some gossiping, some strolling 
off in search of a new pastime : there were plenty to be 
238 




oo 
m 

04 



_ 

_ H 

m t5 
o ; 

JT 

01 



01 

p, 



King Terror 

found in the days before King Terror's hand became so 
heavy that the boldest Republican dared hardly venture 
outside his own door for fear of arrest and death. 

All through the autumn and winter of 1793 to 1794, at 
the hour of approaching sunset and reddening skies, with 
jingling of harness and horses whipped into a gallop, that 
awful cavalcade went plunging from the streets into the 
wide open square, the Place de la Revolution. " There," 
says a French writer, " round the high guillotine, round 
the plaster statue of Liberty already bronzed by the smoke 
of blood, thousands of red-capped heads undulated like 
a field of poppies. All those heads were gazing. . . ." 
Idlers looked on from the Tuileries gardens, from the 
Champs Elysees, from every window within sight. 

The carts were emptied and the victims mounted the 
steps. One after another they were bound, strapped, 
flung down ; on one after another the knife descended. 
Man, woman, or child, old or young, strong or helpless, all 
met the same fate ; and as each head fell the crowd 
shouted, waving caps and sticks. The same writer 
declares that in the very shadow of the guillotine street- 
criers were tinkling their little bells and selling cakes and 
drinks, while pickpockets drove a lively trade. 

Queen Marie-Antoinette travelled that way of the Cross 
alone, exactly four years and ten days after the drive from 
Versailles, and in the same sad weather of drizzling rain. 
Who can forget the picture of ' the Widow Capet ' dressed 
in white, a few grey locks, under the coarse cap, remaining 
of her beautiful fair hair ; her hands tied, her worn face 
fixed in proud unconsciousness, neither seeing nor hearing 
the enormous crowd to whom, set high in the death-cart, 
she is offered as a spectacle ! 

It was a strange Court that attended French royalty in 
its progress into the unknown. There were personages of 

239 



Stories from French History 

royal blood : the King's sister, the saintly Madame Elisa- 
beth ; his cousin the traitor Duke of Orleans, who had 
voted for his death. There were hundreds of men and 
women bearing old, noble names, who had been too loyal 
or too proud to save themselves by emigration. There 
were bishops and priests, abbesses with their nuns. There 
were men high in the law, among them the good and 
courageous M. de Malesherbes, Turgot's friend, who came 
forward in his old age to defend Louis XVI at his trial. 
There were philosophers, men of science, men of business, 
some of them the best and most liberal of citizens. There 
were brave and enthusiastic women such as Charlotte 
Corday and Madame Roland ; unhappy cowards such as 
Madame du Barry. There were whole companies of the 
men who in turn ruled the Revolution and were destroyed 
by their rivals ; Girondins in the autumn followed by 
Jacobins in the spring. Through the first half of the year 
1794 no one was safe; every one was suspect; in that ex- 
tremity of Terror it became necessary to keep the prisons 
full. Madame la Guillotine must not be cheated of her daily 
toll of heads ; for the safety of the rulers of the moment 
depended on her. No wonder that pity was a crime. 

There is no end to the romantic stories that have been 
and will be told of tragic adventures and wonderful escapes 
during those days. Most of them are founded on fact, 
and many of them, in their pictures of gay courage and 
unselfishness, are an honour to human nature. The fate 
of one little family may be taken as typical of what many 
had to expect and to endure. 

A small, bright-eyed woman, plainly dressed in black, 
carrying a milliner's box in one hand and clutching a 
voung girl with the other, had hurried across the bridge 
from the south bank and was now pushing her way along 
the Rue Saint-Honore. Her errand was to a small shop 

240 



King Terror 

not far beyond the Church of Saint-Roch, a shop much 
patronized by the ladies of the Revolution. The pro- 
prietor, a leading Terrorist, knew Citoyenne Mercier as 
the wife of a poor and crippled friend of his who lived near 
the Luxembourg, and admired the nimble fingers which 
twisted a bonnet-ribbon or twirled up a cockade to per- 
fection. He also knew that this perfection had been learnt 
in the workrooms of Mademoiselle Bertin, the late Queen's 
milliner, who had escaped to England early in the Revolu- 
tion. He kept the secret in his own interest and that of 
Jeanne Mercier 's husband. 

The little woman worked hard to keep her Jules and the 
one child left to them : two had died in that winter of 
sickness and privation. Natalie had recovered in the 
sunshine of a lovely spring, and now Citoyen Picot, the 
man-milliner, had offered to take her as an apprentice 
without premium. It was a favour : for in May 1794 his 
trade was at a low ebb. Paris was half empty and 
wrapped in gloom ; every life lay at the mercy of Robes- 
pierre, Fouquier, and their small gang, of whom Picot 
was one. But he and they believed in a better time com- 
ing, ' the Reign of Virtue,' France being purified in blood. 
And Natalie, with her mother's clever ringers, inherited 
her mother's dainty taste. She was her father's child in 
enthusiasm for the new world that was dawning so darkly. 
She was willing to push him about the streets in his chair, 
even as far as the dreadful precincts of the guillotine itself. 
He told her that all the wicked people in France were 
being destroyed there. So little Natalie, with her jaunty 
red cap and cockade, was a child of the Revolution. 
Citoyen Picot risked nothing by employing her. 

Jeanne Mercier went about her business silently, a faith- 
ful wife and mother. Jules and Natalie understood that 
she hated the sight and smell of blood. It seemed less 

Q 241 



Stories from French History 

reasonable that she should catch at any chance of avoiding 
the death-carts, so common a spectacle in the Rue Saint- 
Ilonore and so entertaining in the variety of their loads. 

On that stormy 10th of May 21st Floreal by the Re- 
publican calendar at least one victim of real distinction 
was to make her last journey. Jules Mercier knew this ; 
and he and Natalie conspired to delay Jeanne in starting, 
so that she and the girl might be overtaken by the carts 
before they reached Picot's shop. It happened as they 
had planned. About the Church of Saint-Roch its front 
now decorated with tricolour flags and red caps on pikes- 
the crowd was so dense that Jeanne and Natalie could go 
no farther. 

They stood at the foot of the steps and watched and 
listened, Natalie in eager curiosity, Jeanne nervous and 
trembling, while rumbling from the east, through lines of 
strangely silent people, the procession of carts came jolt- 
ing over the stones. There were twenty-four persons to 
be guillotined that day. Among them were old ladies, 
jroung officers, an archbishop, a canon of Notre-Pame, a 
chemist of the Rue Saint-Honore, several servants and poor 
people. But one held all eyes, bare-headed, for the strong 
wind on the bridge had torn away the handkerchief that 
covered her hair, and now the soft curls were blown about 
her fine, delicate face. Elisabeth of France had for years 
been known as a saint, even by the rough fish-women of 
Paris. In her peace and innocence, serenity and courage, she 
was like a guardian angel that day among her companions, 
and the beautiful sight of her struck the crowd dumb. 

Poor little Jeanne Mercier turned aside and sobbed. 
Natalie grasped her arm. 

" Mother, mother, what are you doing ? ' 

" I cannot bear it. I went once to her house Made- 
moiselle Bertin sent me. She was so kind, so sweet, so 
242 



King Terror 



pleased with the pretty hat these hands made it oh, 
mv God, what horrors ! " 

V ' 

The carts had passed on. Some one touched Jeanne on 
the shoulder and her tearful eyes looked up into the dark, 
wild face of a Jacobin commissary. 

"What, weeping for the tyrant's sister? Thou 
shouldst be in the cart with her ! ' 

' No, no ! We are employed by Citoyen Picot," cried 
Natalie. 

The face became cruel. "Ha! Suspect! We must 
see to this." 

On a later day Jeanne learned that the zealous com- 
missary was not only a friend of Fouquier-Tinville the in- 
satiable, but an enemy of Picot, who had helped to send 
his brother to the scaffold a month before in the same 
batch with Danton and Camille Desmoulins. But that 
night it was like an awful, impossible dream to find herself 
and Natalie, with Jules Mercier and Citizen Picot and his 
family, sleeping in a prison instead of under their own roof. 

Jeanne, who had been touched by human sympathy and 
the pity of it all, who had shrunk trembling from the sight of 
blood and the mocking multitude, and yet had gone duti- 
fully to her work each day, now showed herself the bravest 
of that sad little company. Picot raged ; Jules, the cynical, 
laughed and sobbed alternately; Natalie wept and shivered, 
her fair head in her mother's arms ; Jeanne alone was calmly 
courageous. She did but follow the example of nearly all 
the prisoners, most of them there for no better reason. As 
an instance, one poor little couple who owned a marionette- 
show had been arrested because their ' Charlotte Corday ' 
was too pretty. She cost them their lives. 

In the black and poisonous underground rooms where 
all were flung together, high and low, sick and well, ill- 
lodged, ill-fed ; where no gleam of May sunshine could 

243 



Stories from French History 

reach them ; where doors and gates were only thrown 
open for the entry of more prisoners or the going forth of 
those who passed on to the Conciergerie and the guillotine 
in these rooms men and women talked and laughed 
agreeably, invented little occupations, showed kindness to 
the helpless and suffering, comforted the sad. Thus they 
kept themselves ready for the roll-call that thinned their 
numbers day by day. 

As summer days lengthened and shortened the group 
swept in on 10th May grew smaller. Picot and his wife 
were the first to go : the commissary wanted his revenge. 
Jules Mercier the cripple, Picot's friend, followed him a 
week later. Then Jeanne and Natalie expected that every 
morning would be their last, not guessing that their enemy 
himself had travelled the same road. 

The oppressive days dragged on and on ; and at length, 
when July was nearly over, one of the great dates in 
French history 9th Thermidor gave France freedom to 
breathe and to speak again. For Robespierre was dead, 
and King Terror died with him. 

The prison doors were soon opened, and among the 
liberated captives two little women set out for their home, 
dizzy in the fresh air, limbs shaking, and eyes dazzled by 
the sunshine. A young fellow-prisoner, Picot's son, whose 
existence had luckily been forgotten, walked beside them 
and helped Jeanne with his strong arm. He and Natalie 
had discovered in prison that they loved each other, and 
for them the future was bright with hope. 

"We will open the shop again," he said. ' We will make 
our fortune. Thy mother is the best milliner in France, 
Natalie; she made becoming hats and caps for les ci-dcvanln. 
Yes : I have heard my father say so, when he did not know 
I was there. Courage, citoyennes ; our day is coining ! ' 

" Your day, my children ! " Jeanne Mercier sighed. 
244 



CHAPTER XXVI 
VIVE L'EMPEREUR! 

To-day there is no cloud upon thy face, 

Paris, fair city of romance and doom ! 
Thy memories do not grieve thee, and no trace 

Lives of their tears for us who after come. 

For thus it is. You flout at kings to-day. 

To-morrow in your pride you shall stoop low 
To a new tyrant who shall come your way. 

WILFRID SCAWEX BLUNT 

On parhra de sa yloire 

Sous le chaume lien longtemps. 

P. J. DE BEKANGER 

PERHAPS, in some old French town, some of us 
may have stood at a window to watch a students' 
pageant winding along the narrow street : one of 
those educational pageants known as promenades d travers 
les ages and intended as object-lessons in French history. 
The characters, riding or walking, were dressed for their 
parts in the fashion of each time, and their ornaments and 
weapons flashed in the sunlight. There were Gauls, 
fiercely helmeted ; Roman warriors with gleaming shields ; 
long-haired Merovingians ; medieval kings ; Jeanne the 
Maid with her banner ; splendid monarchs of the Renais- 
sance ; Henri Quatre with his traditional white plume ; 
Louis Quatorze in the majesty of the Grand Siecle. Then 
followed the men of the Revolution, when the great wheel 
had turned and all those splendours had passed away ; 
red caps and pikes surrounding a model of la sainte Guillo- 
tine. And last of all a short man riding a white horse ; a 

245 



Stories from French History 

man with straight black hair, straight pale features, dark 
glowing eyes ; dressed in a grey greatcoat open over a 
green coat with a star, white breeches and high boots and 
a plain cocked hat. And for us who gazed from the 
window it was a striking fact that the crowd up and down 
the street, who had been content to stare silently while 
eighteen centuries of their national history passed by, 
broke into sudden applause with clapping of hands at the 
sight of Napoleon. 

Seldom in the world have the man and the opportunity 
met more remarkably than in the case of that little 
Corsican soldier. The great country of France with its 
far-extended frontiers and its thirty-four old provinces 
lately subdivided into departments, but all, from Beam, 
Roussillon, and Provence to Normandy, Picardy, and 
Artois, from Brittany and Poitou to Alsace and Franchc- 
Comte, differing in thousands of ways, soil, character, 
customs, industries had been profoundly shaken by the 
Revolutionary earthquake. And France was at war with 
Europe ; and, heroic and often victorious as her armies 
were, she needed a different rule from that of the 
National Convention if she was to keep her place in the 
front rank of the nations. The Convention had pulled 
the ancient fabric down : other hands must restore 
and build up. This was the situation that gave genius 
its opportunity ; and genius came from the southern sea 
in the shape of a young Artillery officer, Napoleon 
Buonaparte. 

He arrived in Paris in the autumn of 1795 to find the 
strangest state of things, both in politics and society, that 
the brilliant and changeable city ever knew. The Terror 
was past, but the men of the Terror, those who survived 
the 9th Thermidor, were still in power, and now busy 
arranging for their own permanent rule by re-electing 



Vive PEmpereur ! 



themselves with a new Constitution and a gorgeous figure- 
head of five Directors dressed in Court costume of Fran- 
cois I, velvet and gold embroidery, coloured sashes, cloaks 
of the finest cloth, velvet caps with white curling feathers. 
This absurd masquerade expressed the violent reaction 
from red caps and carmagnole jackets and the gloom of the 
Revolution which had flung Paris and all France into a 
whirl of mad gaiety. Paris was dancing, banqueting, 
gambling, speculating, making fortunes, while her poorer 
people were starving and wild with discontent, her streets 
falling into decay and her shops crammed with relics of 
the old ruined aristocracy, furniture, pictures, clothes, to 
be bought for a mere song. The beautiful hair of many 
victims of the guillotine, made into fashionable wigs, 
adorned the silly heads of the women in clinging garments 
and sandals who danced with the ridiculous young men in 
long coats, short waistcoats, tight trousers, pointed shoes, 
immense cravats covering their chins ; young men nick- 
named incroyables, who lisped fashionably and cultivated 
affectation as a fine art. If this new society meant a 
certain degree of political reaction, the elegance, good 
taste, and cultivation of a former regime were conspicuously 
absent. And with such a man as Barms, ci-devant noble 
and first of the Directors, as its leader, the new society's 
morals did not gain by the change. 

Napoleon Buonaparte's fortunes were at a low ebb when 
he came to Paris, where Barras was almost his only friend. 
Yet he had served and gained his experience in the 
Republican army. But an admirer of Robespierre could 
expect no favour in 1795, and though already a general, 
he had been dismissed from active service and was poor 
and desperate enough when he told Barras that he meant 
to volunteer into the Turkish army. It was his idea that 
the East was the most certain path to glory. History 

247 



Stories from French History 

might have been oddly changed if Napoleon had con- 
quered Europe from Constantinople. 

Then came the riots of 4th and 5th October (12th and 
13th Vendemiaire), when several of the Paris ' sections ' rose 
against the new Constitution and marched 40,000 strong 
to attack the National Convention at the Tuileries. The 
Government troops having at first given way possibly 
that mingled crowd of strange allies, extreme Jacobins 
and returned or hidden Royalists, found sympathizers 
among them Barras, in the name of the Convention, called 
upon little General Buonaparte, sitting in the gallery, who 
would not, he said, be hindered by scruples in doing his 
duty. This was in the evening. While their new com- 
mander made his preparations, collecting his guns and 
posting his men, the Convention spent an uncomfortable 
night of anxiety. In the morning things looked serious, 
for the insurgents were on the way to surround the 
Tuileries, having occupied the Pont-Neuf and the Rue 
Saint-Honore. The day wore on ; the Convention was 
terrified ; but Napoleon would not move till he was ready. 
No weakness or humanity delayed the soldier who meant 
to make sure of success. At four o'clock his guns blazed 
from the bridges and in the narrow streets. A picture of 
the time shows the work of that " whiff of grape-shot ' 
which first made Paris acquainted with Napoleon : the 
tall houses in the Rue Saint-Honore, their fronts obscured 
by smoke ; the steps under the pillared front of Saint- 
Roch, hotly defended and strewn with dead and 
wounded men. This, it seems, was the centre of the 
fighting. Saint-Roch bears the marks to this da)'. 
Thus Napoleon saved the worn-out Convention and 
gave the Directory those few years of power, foolishly 
and dishonestly used, which wearied France of the dis- 
orders of so-called liberty and prepared her for a soldier's 
248 



Vive PEmpereur ! 



rule. " No one regretted the Directory, except the five 
Directors." 

In the autumn of 1799 the brilliant victor of Italy and 
Egypt destroyed this helpless Government and made him- 
self First Consul of the French Republic. And if Napoleon 
could have been contented to use the political side of his 
marvellous genius, restoring his exhausted country, re- 
establishing religion, making the wise laws which are the 
foundation of French life to-day, his name would have 
stood high among the world's benefactors. But his 
ambition soared beyond all this, and his chief passion was 
for ' glory ' of another kind. 

The year 1802 sees him, one may say, at the real 
zenith of his career. He is now at the beginning of the 
thirteen years during which his name was to dominate 
Europe, and in course of which, in spite of all his triumphs 
and conquests, its first fine lustre was gradually to be 
dimmed. But no shadow of the future falls on the most 
gorgeous scene of his whole life and perhaps the most 
splendid the old cathedral ever saw, his coronation in 
Notre-Dame on 2nd December, 1804. Pope Pius VII 
travelled from Rome to give him the Imperial crown 
with the " sceptre of Charlemagne." 

Notre-Dame glows with colour and gilding : its old 
walls and arches are hung with magnificent tapestry ; 
nave and choir wave with feathers, flash with jewels, 
rustle with satin and brocade. All Napoleon's new 
princes and princesses, dukes, counts and barons, generals 
and marshals, make a dazzling congregation such as the 
old Court never surpassed, if it ever equalled. Stately 
music rolls down the aisles, while the dim light of the 
December day steals in through rich windows paled by 
the flame of a thousand candles. 

It is very cold. The aged Pope in his white vestments, 

249 



Stories from French History 

majestic, frail to look upon, his dark eyes veiled with sad- 
ness, has long to wait and to shiver before the new master 
of France, who has not learned that " punctuality is the 
politeness of kings," enters the cathedral with his wife 
Josephine at the end of a splendid procession. Napoleon's 
appearance in his coronation robes is singularly fine. 
Once, in poverty and shabbiness, so yellow and haggardly 
thin as to be almost ugly, ease and triumphant fortune 
now show his Greek features and clear olive skin in their 
natural beauty. Already he wears a crown of gold laurel 
leaves. His long robe is of crimson velvet embroidered 
with gold ; over it hangs the collar of his new order, the 
Legion of Honour, in large diamonds ; the Imperial robe 
of purple velvet and ermine sweeps from his shoulders. 
The Empress Josephine, on that day the proudest and 
happiest woman in France, wears white satin and blazes 
with jewels. When she married the little Corsican officer 
in 1796, who could have foretold this ? And who, in 1804, 
could be bold enough to prophesy a hidden future ? 

As the Imperial procession enters Notre-Dame a sudden 
and tremendous shout of " Vive VEmpereur ! ' bursts 
from the multitude gathered there. And presently, after 
the anointing and blessing of Emperor and Empress, when 
the Pope is about to proceed to the actual coronation, 
Napoleon the colossal pawenu, a great French writer 
called him takes the crown and places it on his own 
head, afterward with his own hands crowning Josephine. 
And then those old walls echo back the selfsame chant 
that saluted the Emperor Charlemagne in St Peter's at 
Rome on Christmas Day a thousand years before : ' Vival 
in ceternum semper Augustus! ' 

Truly an amazing sequel to the Revolution ! 

Let us glance on through eight years of what Napoleon 
called ' glory.' His great army with its eagle standards 




The Coronation of Napoleon 
Baron Myrbach 



250 



Vive 1'Empereur ! 



victorious everywhere ; his soldiers, especially the famous 
Old Guard, his personal slaves ; his Empire extending 
east, north, and south ; his brothers and sisters reigning 
over the kingdoms of Europe ; his subjects dazzled and 
breathless, some adoring, others, chiefly women, suffering 
too sharply under the sacrifice of all the brave youth of 
France that his conquests demanded ; but all proud of 
the hero who made the nation invincible. All had to 
give way, at home and abroad, before his conquering 
march : Josephine, divorced and forsaken, saw an 
Austrian princess in her place and a baby heir at the 
Tuileries. Society bowed before a ruler more absolute 
and more tyrannical than any king ; gentle by birth, it is 
true, yet without the instincts or the manners of a gentle- 
man ; fascinating yet brutal ; of boundless genius and 
equally boundless selfishness. 

And then came the beginning of Napoleon's downfall : 
the Russian campaign where he really met his match for 
the first time, not in the shape of any mortal magnate's 
army, but in that of Winter, a stronger monarch than all. 

November 1812 : the eagles in full retreat ; blazing 
Moscow and great tracts of devastated country behind the 
Grand Army, which had marched into Russia in the heat 
of early autumn and was now struggling back toward 
Smolensk and the rivers Dnieper, Beresina, and Niemen ; 
no longer in military array, but wandering in scattered 
bands through the fog-bound forests, tormented by hover- 
ing Cossacks and hungry wolves, fighting blinding snow- 
storms which blotted out the only road, paralysed by 
bitter frost, no shelter, no food. It was a large army, for 
those days, that had set out with Napoleon to conquer 
Russia : 600,000 men. Long before the disastrous retreat 
had crossed the frontier the numbers had gone down to 
55,000. Only 20,000 reached Kovno on the Niemen ; 

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Stories from French History 

and most of these were living skeletons who had thrown 
away their weapons. 

But in the many stories of that time one never reads 
that the soldiers of the Grand Army certainly not those 
of the Old or the Young Guard had a word of reproach 
for the Emperor who was the cause of all their sufferings. 
They never lost faith in him. Nothing was impossible to 
him. He must succeed in the end ; and all these terrible 
scenes were part of the fortune of war. 

Two young grenadiers of the Guard, neighbours at 
home in France, went through the horrors of the Russian 
retreat together. They saw and suffered strange things 
in a world like the wildest visions of poets such as Dante 
or Victor Hugo. It was dark, and the whirling wind was 
full of thick snow which made all objects invisible, except 
at moments the tall pine and birch trees, beneath whose 
great stems and dark canopied heads no clear path could 
be found. Once away from the road, its sides heaped 
with dead horses and men, white frozen mounds glimmer- 
ing in the ghastly twilight, it was soon impossible to find 
the way back to that small chance of safety. Plunging 
among the trees, their comrades lost, their uniform in 
rags, sometimes up to their shoulders in snow, these two 
friends dragged each other out of icy hollows, tried to help 
the wounded who were of necessity left behind, tried to 
light fires, to make soup of horse-flesh, to gain a little of 
that blessed sleep from which thousands like them never 
woke again. They had many wild adventures and saw 
many unforgettable sights. They saw miserable wounded 
men trying to shelter themselves within the bodies of dead 
horses ; whole circles of dead men lying with their feet to 
a dead fire, while ravens hovered above. They saw a 
trumpeter standing erect, frozen in death, his trumpet at 
his lips. They saw soldiers carrying their wounded 



Vive PEmpereur ! 



officers for leagues on their shoulders, or passing the night 
grouped round a young commander to save his life by the 
warmth of their own bodies. And it snowed and snowed : 
and the lost army seemed to be following a lost leader. 

One day at dawn, when the fugitive host was not far 
from the fatal crossing of the Beresina, the two grenadiers 
saw their hero again. They had regained the road, and 
the head of the Imperial column loomed up a pale phan- 
tom through the mist. A number of officers, some on 
horseback, many on foot, lame, and worn with hunger ; 
a few of the cavalry of the Guard ; and then Napoleon 
walking, surrounded by his princes and generals, wrapped 
in a great fur cloak, a stick in his hand, and on his head 
a velvet cap edged with black fox fur. The young men's 
tears ran down to make fresh icicles on their frozen 
moustaches. 

" Am I asleep or awake ? " said one to the other. " I 
weep to see our Emperor marching on foot he who is so 
great, he of whom we are so proud ! Vive rEmpereitr ! ' 

Napoleon turned and looked at them : he never forgot 
a soldier of his Guard. 

After the Beresina, when most of the men and horses 
remaining to the Grand Army were whirling down its ice- 
laden torrent amid storms of wind and snow, the Emperor's 
staff could not find fuel enough to keep him warm in his 
plank shelter. They sent round to the bivouacs of the 
shivering soldiers to ask for dry wood ; and there was not 
a man, we are told, who refused to give the best he had. 
"Even the dying lifted their heads once more to say: 
' Take it for the Emperor.' " 

And Napoleon left the remnant of his ruined army to 
live or die as they might, and started off in furious haste 
for Paris, where the plots of the discontented were already 
threatening his dynasty. Fresh armies must be raised 

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P 

in exhausted France : fresh victories must make him 
secure. Hut all this could only delay by a few months 
the day when the conqueror of Europe, defeated and for- 
saken, was to find his rule limited to the little island of 
Elba. 

The end was not yet : " the violet returns with the 
spring." Such words as these were whispered through- 
out France before the coast of old Provence had witnessed 
one of the most striking scenes in its long history. In his 
boyhood Napoleon had sailed to France over that tideless 
sea ; its waves had carried him lately into banishment ; 
and now, on a cloudless March afternoon in 1815, he 
landed in the Golfe Jouan with 11,000 men to reconquer 
his Empire. The sun shone brilliantly ; the Mediterranean 
trembled under the cold wind, all dark blue ripples edged 
with silver foam. The pine-trees and the grey olives 
threw a warm sheltering shadow, and as the day advanced 
the sunlight touched the snowy range of the Maritime Alps 
with gold and red. 

Napoleon ordered his men to light a fire on the shore, 
and he waited there through the evening and part of the 
night, his ships anchored in the bay, detachments of his 
Guard visiting Cannes and Antibes and other towns and 
villages in search of food and horses. They met with 
little resistance, though little welcome. France was UOAV 
ruled by Louis XVIII, and though the returned Bourbons 
and their followers were hardly popular, France for the 
time seemed tired of war and of ' glory.' 

It was a romantic scene that night on the shore of the 
little bay. Bright stars were shining ; the wind ruffled 
the flames of Napoleon's bivouac fire. He sat near it on 
a military chest, wrapped in his greatcoat, surrounded 
by maps of the country, buried in anxious and gloomy 
thought ; for though he had assured his officers and men 
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Vive 1'Empereur ! 



that he would return to Paris without firing a shot, he was 
far too clever not to realize the difficulties of his adventure. 
As he sat there the bells of the old church at Cannes 
clanged out the angelus and the curfew. The dark masses 
of the woods, olives below, pines above, hid the valleys 
and the roads that climbed to the mountain wall, the wall 
of France against a southern invader. All Napoleon's 
hopes and ambitions lay beyond that high mysterious 
wall. He meant to cross it, confident in his star, in the 
magic of his name and the love of his old soldiers. He 
would speak to them as a son of the Revolution of 1789, 
as the healer of the wounds the Terror had left, and the 
soldier whom the powers of nature alone had been able 
utterly to overwhelm. 

They say that an old Royalist of Cannes crept down to 
the shore that night with his old gun, intending to shoot 
the returned usurper. But he was stopped in the very 
moment of taking aim by a friend who had followed him, 
fearing the consequences of such a deed. For Cannes was 
undefended, and Napoleon's Old Guard would have taken 
a speedy revenge. 

We may follow Napoleon a little farther. In a few days 
he had crossed the mountains and was approaching 
Grenoble, the fortified capital of Dauphine, strongly garri- 
soned by Royalist troops. Napoleon and his escort were 
met by a detachment sent out to prevent his advance to 
the walls. He walked forward alone to meet them. 

" Comrades, do you know me ? I am your Emperor, 
your father. Fire on me if you will ! ' 

" Vive VEmpereur ! " 

The troops of Grenoble are at Napoleon's feet. Eagle 
standards and tricolour cockades appear as if by magic, 
and he marches triumphant on his way. 

At Lyons it is the same story : and the journey on to 

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Fontainebleau and Paris, ending in a wonderful reception 
at the Tuileries, is one of ever-increasing enthusiasm. 
Once again kings and princes fly before the conquering 
name of Napoleon. 

The news of that month of March 1815, one startling 
event following another, was announced by the journals 
with swift changes of tone such as these : 

" The Monster has escaped from Elba." 

' General Buonaparte has reached Grenoble." 
' Napoleon is at Lyons." 

" His Imperial Majesty the Emperor Napoleon has 
arrived at the Tuileries." 

A hundred days later Napoleon fought and lost the 
battle of Waterloo. And then, 

O wild St Helen ! very still she kept him, 

till his bones were brought back to Paris and laid in that 
tomb under the stately dome of Louis XIV's Invalides 
which is to this day, and for all the nations of the world, 
a place of pilgrimage.